Dear Minister Tufton,
I have seen the report in today’s (November 5, 2017) Sunday Gleaner that women continue to turn up at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital in Kingston & St. Andrew needing care because of botched abortions. We know this has been happening for many years.
I also note that in your interview with the Jamaica Gleaner, you acknowledged that we should be having dialogue about the issue of access to safe and legal abortions. You also noted that our religious leaders are likely to vehemently oppose giving citizens access to safe and legal abortions.
I know that as a society we like to call ourselves Christian, and we sometimes like to listen to religious leaders more than we listen to the rest of our citizens.
It is something I understand, perhaps because some of our religious leaders are what some would call model citizens who have made significant contributions to Jamaica’s development. My dad is one such leader, so I get it, I really do.
But it is my opinion that as a state, we do an injustice to our people, and we infringe on their human rights when we decide that our religious leaders should have a say in what a person does with their own womb.
It is my opinion that each citizen who has a womb should decide whether they want to keep that womb, whether they want to allow a foetus to develop in that womb, and whether they want their womb’s lining to shed blood each month.
As a state, we have been sending a very dangerous message to some of our citizens for over a century. And that message is this: some citizens do not have rights over their own bodies.
And if the state is sending that message, it is no surprise that some citizens believe that they have rights over other citizens’ bodies – we see it in sexual assault and rape cases every day.
The state cannot continue to send that message to its citizens, that it supports the controlling of a person’s womb by religious leaders, by Ministers of Government, by everyone EXCEPT the owner of the womb.
Last year some U.S. citizens made daily calls to then Indiana Governor Mike Pence to give him detailed updates on their periods because, like the Jamaican government, he believed he should control citizens’ wombs.
To many, it seemed like a ridiculous thing to do, but note, that’s the same ridiculous thing a state is doing when it tells citizens what they can and cannot do with their wombs.
You are a pragmatic Minister.
I would also like to believe that you would like to stop sending a message to citizens that you intend to continue controlling their wombs by forcing them (through the law) to do what you want them to do with their wombs, and if they don’t, you are going to put them in prison for the rest of their lives, as prescribed by the law.
I am hoping that you will recognise sooner than later that abortions need to be legal, safe and accessible to every citizen who may need it, as it is in Guyana and Barbados. It is my view that we can learn from, adapt and improve upon what Guyana and Barbados have been able to achieve in this regard.
We owe it to our citizens.
We see what has been happening at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital for several years. And we know that this law, which makes all abortions and all attempts to access and to complete an abortion, is an unjust law.
I am counting on you to protect and respect the rights of every Jamaican citizen.