Each time the issue of abortion is raised for debate in Jamaica, the Christian extremists who say they are particularly concerned about the nation’s health and family life get “steamed up.” They do their very best to block any sensible, coherent discussion on a matter that affects roughly half of our population in a deeply personal way. What continually surprises me is that, although these people claim to care about human life and their emotional barometer is very high, they seem so lacking in compassion. They are entitled to their views but certainly cannot listen to others. And they are experts at disinformation – that is, information that is deliberately intended to deceive.
So, the Partnership for Women’s Health and Wellbeing, which I fully support, sent me the following statement. I am so relieved to know that many Jamaican Christians believe that there is a compassionate and loving God. I also, personally, love the comment about science, which does work in teams, “across all political barriers,” and national barriers too. Almost a year ago, the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre in association with the Partnership for the Promotion of Maternal, Neonatal and Infant Health Rights at the University of the West Indies started this discussion with the Jamaica Council of Churches. A range of views was expressed, but this was just the start. I am thinking that we need to have these discussions on a monthly basis so that we can understand each other better – and actually begin moving forward.
Please, for the sake of our women, children, families, let us start by listening. As Health Minister Christopher Tufton said last year, we cannot keep shutting down the debate. This is the 21st century.
STATEMENT FROM COMMITTED CHRISTIANS IN SUPPORT OF ABORTION UP TO 12 WEEKS
We, as committed Christians, fully support the call for abortion or termination of pregnancy on the terms advocated by the Advisory Committee to the Parliamentary Select Committee of 2007-2009 and by the Partnership for Women’s Health and Wellbeing.
These terms include: the procedure being carried out within the Health System by a qualified medical practitioner, not recommended beyond 12 weeks, involving pre- and post-abortion counseling, and with special provisions for pregnant girls under 18 years of age. We recognize that terminating a pregnancy is never an easy decision but we hold out the compassion of Christ to all women faced with this decision. We also feel the pain of those sisters who have had miscarriages or are unable to conceive.
Why do we support the termination of a pregnancy/abortion on these terms?
- The Creator has given us all the ability to collectively understand the laws of science as we continue to explore and appreciate the marvelous world of God’s creation. No branch of knowledge works more in teams than science, across all political barriers. We unwittingly insult God when we do not use this amazing knowledge to further our understanding of life.
- Science tells us that at 6 weeks the embryo is so tiny it can fit within our small fingernail; at 8 weeks it weighs 1/30thof an ounce. At 12 weeks, now called a foetus, it is 4 inches long and weighs 1 ounce. It has all its organs, but none are functioning. Science tells us that the foetus is not able to function fully independently outside the womb until 23 weeks. Aborting an embryo up to 12 weeks is NOT murdering a baby. There are pictures being circulated to promote this idea that an embryo of 12 weeks or less is an almost fully grown foetus (at 23 or more weeks when it is viable). This is, unfortunately, highly deceptive. In today’s jargon, they are FAKE NEWS.
- We are making this statement not out of anger, but out of the fullness of our love and our commitment to people’s wellbeing. There are many examples of the situations into which a woman or man may not wish to bring another into the world. They do not have the resources, human and financial, to raise another child or there is serious stress associated with the pregnancy. The decision to terminate a pregnancy is never an easy one but bringing unwanted pregnancies to term leads to unwanted children, often without access to caring adults, and subject to abuse from stressed mothers or fathers. The stress in these circumstances can severely impact the development of the child. Where a child is subject to chronic stressful events as can occur in circumstances where the mother, in particular, is incapable of providing the necessary loving atmosphere, the resulting toxic stress can result in smaller brains or change the stress system so that the child has a lower ability to endure stress, which can later lead to physical and mental illness (“Excessive Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Developing Brain”, National Scientific Council on the Developing Child [U.S.A] 2005).
- We are clear:
- Abortion up to 12 weeks is not killing a human person.
- God is unimaginable goodness and love. The abundance and fertility of Nature are all around us and include our own fertility; for example, 30% of pregnancies result in spontaneous abortion within 3 weeks of conception. We conclude that there is nothing that suggests that women are to be seen as mass producers of as many children as they can bear. Instead, children, women, men, and life, in general, are to be treated with respect and care.
- Life has many twists and turns and these include unwanted pregnancies. Women must be free to reject an undeveloped embryo or foetus in order to better preserve their lives and the lives of their present or future children.
- If we follow Christ, we bring compassion, humility, and love to all.
Dr. Anna Kasafa Perkins, Coordinator, Caribbean Women Theologians for Transformation (CWTT)
Rev. Rachele ‘Evie’ Vernon O’Brian
Gillian Glean Walker
Fr. Sean MajorCampbell
Rev. Dr. Sonia Hinds
Rev. Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth, Chief Executive Officer, Caribbean Family Planning Affiliation (CFPA)
Rev. Kelli Jolly
Patricia Donald Phillips
Dr. Pansy Hamilton
Rev. Dr. Margaret Fowier
Dr. Deanna Ashley
Prof. Affette McCaw-Binns
Prof. Elizabeth Thomas-Hope
Rev. Raymond Coke