I write in reference to the recent call by Jamaica’s Abortion Policy Review Advisory Group to repeal current laws prohibiting abortion in order to allow conditions under which medical termination of pregnancy to be lawful. I have observed that in this developing nation, many observers collapse the complexity of the issue to one of morality, i.e. whether it is right to kill a human being (during the early stages of life.)
Ironically, the argument that is often overlooked here is that the decision to terminate a pregnancy is based on conscience, which is supposed to be protected by the Constitution. Accordingly, freedom of conscience of the individual must be paramount to that of the state. It is a decision that deeply reflects the way the woman thinks about herself and her relationship to others and to society.
By prohibiting abortion, the government unjustly endorses one view regarding abortion at the expense of another. It is denying freedom of conscience of women who would like to have control over their person.
It is suggested that the fetus should be thought of as part of the mother, rather than a separate self-sustaining human being, due to the fact that the fetus and mother share circulatory, respiratory and digestive systems. Accordingly, the debate regarding abortion is about whether the government should be allowed to infringe on the right of a woman to control her body, rather than the right of a mother to “murder her baby.”
I do not believe that a woman should have an unfettered right to choose whether an abortion is appropriate. However, I also do not believe that it is the legitimate business of the government to dictate what a woman can and cannot do with her own body as a matter of principle. The notion that women are merely human incubators, that once pregnant, are forced by the government to see the pregnancy through seems archaic.
The profound physiological trauma, psychological stress of an unwanted pregnancy, as well as trans-generational economic and social consequences of the state-imposed denial of a woman’s right to choose the best course of action for herself under the circumstances interferes the physical and bodily integrity of women.
Therefore, this violation of the liberty and security of the person are other constitutional rights undermined by prohibiting abortions. It is only reasonable to acknowledge that security of the person must include a right of access to medical treatment without fear of criminal sanction.
In conclusion, it should be observed that the right to liberty should guarantee a degree of personal autonomy over important decisions intimately affecting one’s private life. Liberty in a democracy does not require the state to approve the personal decisions of women. However, it does require the state to at least respect such decisions, or at least the constitution rights of women. As such, I agree that the existing laws should be repealed.
B.A., (Hons.), LL.B., M.Sc.