On this modern and developing island, that I like to call home, many Jamaicans would have it, that women now have the power to 100% control their fertility because of their access to modern methods of contraception.
The perfect scenario would be that a sexually active Jamaican woman, would have no reason to be pregnant unless she wants to be. Ideally, she would finish her education, decide when she wants to start her family and stop when it’s completely to her liking then happily slip off into menopause without a hitch. However, the reality is that an estimated
22,000 illegal abortions are performed annually in Jamaica.World Health Organization
This only means that at least, at the bare minimum, there are 22,000 Jamaican women who are having either unplanned, unwanted or complications with pregnancies that requires an abortion.
Now, why stress over 22,000 Jamaican women? The issue is that this group of women are the most vulnerable. Women of this group are dying, due to complications of botched abortions.
“The practice of unsafe abortions and the consequences of abortions performed by untrained, non-specialist physicians can result in a number of complications for women, including: severe infections, gangrene in the uterus, hemorrhaging, tearing of the cervix, uterine perforation, laceration of the vaginal wall and untimely death.”(Parliament Submission from Partnership for Women’s Health & Well-Being, 2019).
Attitudes towards abortion in Jamaica
So when a woman gets pregnant and she seeks to have an abortion she is labelled by the patriarchal Jamaican society as a cemetery, whore, sinner and as a fool-fool gyal. And because of this label, it somehow justifies denying women access to safe and legal abortions. Criminalizing them to face possible life imprisonment with hard labour. Why is that? Is it that she made her bed now she should lay in it?
Reasons why women seek an abortion
What some Jamaicans haven’t realized is that we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a world where women are the poorest of the population and are severely oppressed. As a consequence of this reality, women are victims of rape, incest and all sorts of sexual violence.
Some women do not have negotiating power during sex. Let alone decide if conception is used. And for those women, who can negotiate and do use conception also do find themselves pregnant because their conception method failed.
There are also women who are excited to be mothers, but, during the pregnancy she realizes that the viability of her pregnancy has been compromised and she has to terminate in order to live.
Why decriminalize abortion in Jamaica
It is because of these realities, why Jamaican women sometimes to go desperate measures to terminate their pregnancies. Whether it be by drinking gramoxone, committing maternal suicide or by having an illegal abortion performed by an untrained, non-specialist physician.
Women deserve the right to have access to safe abortions in their country if they choose to have one. Without the fear of being imprisoned or the fear of shame.
Women deserve to have full autonomy of their bodies. Jamaica owes this to us. Jamaica owes it to me. The Sustainable Development Goals and CEDAW which Jamaica has signed onto must be brought into the forefront. I am holding the Government of Jamaica accountable. Do the right thing by the women of Jamaica and I will vote for you.