JAMAICA – “A gender oppressive and wholly unjust law made by fossilised men”

by Hon. Alando N Terrelonge, Attorney-at-Law and Minister of State in the Ministry of Culture Gender Entertainment and Sports, Jamaica

“… Forgetting the very premise of freedom of speech and democracy on which these debates are built, religious proponents of the anti-abortion position have called for government officials to be reined in and have described women seeking to abort pregnancies as barbaric and savage; women whose only ‘crime’ is daring to safeguard their own God-given freedom to exercise autonomy over their own bodies.

“This kind of language and savagery coming from the anti-abortionists, to put the shoe where it squarely fits, harks back to a period in our history when the bodies of most humans on this island only dreamt of what it meant to be free. Freedom was as elusive as it was frustratingly used as an object of taunt by those who held power over the bodies of others who were chatteled and enslaved. These images induce an insidious chill. It deeply bothers me that as a nation, we have not emancipated our minds from that most unwholesome, centuries-old habit (or perhaps desire) of needing to enslave, control, police, and own the bodies of others to justify our own wholeness and holiness as men before God…

“Women’s organisations across the world have fought for the right to access safe and legal abortion for decades, and increasingly, international human rights law supports their claims. In fact, international human rights legal instruments and authoritative interpretations of those instruments compel the conclusion that women have a right to decide independently in all matters related to reproduction, including the issue of abortion. Our Caribbean neighbours – Cuba, Barbados, and Guyana – have long since respected this position and liberated their women from archaic abortion restrictive laws in 1965, 1983, and 1995, respectively.

“Ireland, a country known for its Catholic conservatism when it comes to issues such as abortion, legalised abortion in 2018. And in January 2019, Ireland opened its abortion services. The achievements of the Irish law are noteworthy: it offers a free, safe, and legal abortion for most people who require it. The law allows abortion on request to 12 weeks and beyond 12 weeks in a few, limited circumstances. This represents a remarkable transformation in Ireland, where before the law passed, life-saving abortion was the only kind of termination available. More recently, in December 2020, our Latin-American neighbour Argentina abolished its abortion laws in what is universally viewed as a landmark moment for women’s rights.

“It is time for Jamaica to truly play her part in advancing the welfare of her women. I laud Minister Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn and others who refuse to be reined in and who persist in making the courageous call for us to abolish our antiquated abortion law. We must break the brutal and agonising whip of this gender oppressive and wholly unjust law made by fossilised men in an era where women were seen as nothing more than reproductive chattel owned by men. It is my hope that our women and girls can one day stand proud and free, knowing that they have the very basic human right and freedom to make autonomous decisions concerning their own bodies.”

FULL COMMENTARY: Jamaica Gleaner, by Hon. Alando N Terrelonge, 9 February 2021 ; PHOTO, 2019

Congratulations to the Jamaica Gleaner for their recent series of articles, letters and commentary supporting abortion law reform in Jamaica.