For years, abortion legislation has been a contentious debate in Jamaica. While various women’s rights groups have lobbied for legalization, there has always been pushback from religious groups and a parliament dominated by men.
But now, with a record number of women in the House of Representatives, the issue is again being highlighted, this time receiving more support from elected officials.
The State Minister of Health and Wellness, Juliet Cuthbert Flynn, re-ignited the controversial debate this week, following Argentina’s landmark ruling to legalize abortion.
Cuthbert-Flynn expressed that she wants the controversial issue to be placed back on the parliamentary agenda and a conscience vote be pursued to amend the existing laws in Jamaica.
A retired Olympian, Cuthbert-Flynn has been known to show her support for women on various issues. In 2019, she brought the abortion debate to parliament by sharing a personal experience. She revealed that a life-threatening brain tumor led her to get an abortion at the age of 19.
“At some point, we have to recognize that the Jamaican government is made to serve the interest of its men and women. We have to allow women to make decisions concerning their bodies in the same way that men can,” he said.
Terrelonge said that he is confident that the push for legal abortions will gain more support this time around as there are more women and “secure men” in Jamaica’s parliament.
“When one looks at the constitution of parliament, within the lower house and the senate, for the first time in our history, we have a high concentration of women. We also have a high concentration of men who are strong and secure and men support the women of Jamaica. You cant say you truly support a woman, if you don’t support her right to make her own decisions.”
Under the 2011 Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, Jamaica’s anti-abortion laws cannot be challenged in court, as they were in Argentina.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has promised to put the issue to a national vote along with matters concerning the buggery law and the legalization of marijuana.