Yesterday in Parliament, Juliet Cuthbert Flynn filed a Private Member’s Motion for the repeal of two sections of the Offences Against the Persons Act. She would like the House of Representatives to consider the recommendations of the Abortion Policy Group – in 2007, eleven years ago – established to provide guidance on the matter. Here is the link to the recommendations, presented to the Health Minister Horace Dalley on February 19, 2007 (many thanks to Susan Goffe for this).
I believe the time is right for a sensible discussion on this matter, which has been continually swept under the carpet since 2007.
Here is a press release from the Advocates for the Partnership for the Promotion of Patients’ Rights in Maternal, Neonatal and Infant Health (MNIH) based at the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC) in support of Ms. Cuthbert Flynn.
WROC recently co-sponsored a most stimulating discussion with the Jamaica Council of Churches on the issue of abortion under the MNIH, in partnership with the University of the West Indies (UWI). It was clear from that meeting that there is, in fact, space for a more balanced and less confrontational debate (which is what the Member of Parliament says she is looking for) and perhaps some common ground among those with strong feelings on the issue. It’s not an easy one, but I also commend Ms. Cuthbert Flynn for her action in Parliament.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Attention: All News Editors
Support for Motion to decriminalize abortion in Jamaica
Kingston, Jamaica, June 6, 2018
Member of Parliament, Mrs. Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn is deserving of commendation for tabling for debate in the House of Representatives, a Motion for the repeal of sections 72 and 73 of the 1864 Offences Against the Persons Act (OAPA), and the enactment of legislation to address issues relating to abortions in a manner that is humane, respectful of the rights of women and responsive to major public health realities.
The Advocates for the Partnership for the Promotion of Patients’ Rights in Maternal, Neonatal and Infant Health (MNIH), welcome this Motion as it calls for the repeal of a statute which threatens women to life imprisonment “with or without hard labour.” It exposes persons such as health care providers to three years imprisonment for providing advice and services to women and girls who may seek support in addressing their vulnerabilities.
The MNIH project, sponsored by the EU under the Programme for the Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality (PROMAC), is being implemented by the University of the West Indies and the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC). A conversation on “unsafe abortion and human rights” was recently co-sponsored with the Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC) with over twenty civil society organisations participating. With unsafe abortions being the third leading cause of maternal deaths in Jamaica, the forum provided a space for the exchange of views on what are seen as challenging, but necessary personal and public health issues which need to be addressed once and for all.
The UWI/WROC Team is in the process of finalizing a brief for discussion with the Minister of Health, among other key stakeholders including advocates in Parliament. The brief carries forward, the broad areas of agreements that emerged from the majority of participants in the recent conversation among CSOs, including the churches present. Some of these are in line with issues raised by MP Cuthbert-Flynn.
The Motion is therefore very timely and strategic; it provides the opportunity for legislators across the aisle, and among female parliamentarians, in particular, to put an end to the criminalization of poverty among vulnerable women and girls who may need termination of pregnancy for considered reasons. This is the time for responsive leadership to influence the nation and put in place civil legislation to regulate the termination of pregnancy under specified conditions. It is timely to give recognition to the human rights of women to choose and take the decision for themselves, with support and advice, on whether or not to terminate a pregnancy.
The MNIH team is committed to advance the dialogue with parliamentarians and other stakeholders to secure the repeal of the punitive 1864 act and provide a framework for the protection of the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and their families.
For more information, contact:
Linnette Vassell – Advocacy Specialist, MNIH
The Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre
Tele: (876) 929-8873, 906-6067, 399-4280
Nikeisha Sewell-Lewis – Executive Director
The Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre
Tele: (876) 929-8873, 906-6067, 861-3982