Let Me Abort if I Want

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.

The Unsilencing & Inspiration of ‘Me Too’

I’ve been reading many tweets, Facebook posts and articles about ‘me too’. The number of people using those five letters is a reminder of how pervasive sexual violence is in communities around the world, in communities across the Caribbean, and in communities at home – Jamaica.

Survivors are talking.

Silencing – one of the features of rape culture is slowly becoming a thing of the past. I also notice that as more survivors speak and challenge the status quo of silence, the shaming is being reduced – I see many compassionate responses to those who have decided that they won’t be silenced anymore. And the blaming – the third feature of rape culture isn’t a feature in many of the responses I’ve seen to ‘me too’. I’ve realised that some survivors have gone a step further – they are naming perpetrators; they are casting the blame where it belongs, and they are shaming those who ought to be shamed.

I know it will take much more to rid the society of this nasty life-ruining culture of sexual violence, but I am hopeful. It may take several shockwaves at different points in our history to experience the change that we need, but that’s no reason to give up, at least not in the ways I have, because I was wrong about many women who used to inspire me – women I thought would defend, ad infinitum, survivors and their right to a life free from sexual violence and their right to justice.

It’s going to take a revolution, and the revolution may happen in stages and with bold actions; movements may sometimes seem disjointed, but the revolution will happen — I feel it in my bones. I know one day when I don’t feel so defeated and remember all the supportive voices around me, the fire that is needed to be a part of the revolution will once again be set ablaze in me.

For now, I am watching the fire ablaze in many of you, and I am watching with humility and hope. And I hope that for every woman, for every person who said ‘me too’, there is a sea of people available to support because the ‘unsilencing’ is the beginning. For change to become our new reality, healing must take centre stage, and we must not give up on our ailing justice system. We must make it better, generations of young women and young men need our advocacy now. We need to do what we must to ensure that justice is possible for all of us.

For a while there I thought the status quo had won, I thought we had failed, especially those girls who we promised we would fight with and for, but I see hope and a brighter future and I am feeling inspired again. I am feeling inspired today.

My Womb: Who Owns it?

I am deviating a bit in this piece from my usual LGBT-themed posts to talk a little about women and their reproductive rights.

Blog procreationI write about this because somewhere in the minds of a few (?) Jamaicans (and I suppose other nationalities) it is a woman’s duty to procreate and replenish the earth with offspring unlimited.

Whether as women we believe it is our duty to procreate through planning or if “wi happm fi get ketch”, it does not give us the right to discriminate against other women who do not share that view regarding the function of their anatomy. Not all women care to ignite their maternal instinct (if they have it). Not all women have the desire to mother a child or children. And certainly not all women are equipped with the skills to be an effective parent (I suspect theignostic1 is one of those).

Blog procreation 2Furthermore, if a woman “happm fi get ketch”, it should be her right to determine if she wants anything (or anyone?) to be housed temporarily in her womb. It’s hers, right? Well, I would like to think so. I am not aware of any law in Jamaica that makes a woman the mere occupier of premises where her womb is concerned, on the supposition that the Crown has absolute ownership of all wombs much like property/land. If that law does in fact exist, all in favour of abortion should begin the process of seeking asylum.

A woman, in my opinion, is the ultimate decision-maker with respect to her womb. At an early age I made a decision not to procreate and was duly informed that as soon as I entered mid-twenties my perspective and philosophy on same would change. Sadly (?), I am in my 30s and I still choose not to “multiply and replenish the earth”.

Blog procreation 3Why does every woman need to replenish the earth? Are we aware that there is “an overall increase in the number of reports [of abuse and neglect of children]…over the period [2007-2011]” according to the Office of the Children’s Registry [2012]? Are we aware that persons who give birth are abandoning the beautiful ones who have been born? Are we aware that the state does not have a handle on child abandonment? Like seriously, what is this fuss about women who do not want to procreate or women who do not want their wombs occupied, or women who just don’t want to mother a child? Get over it!

—I think this is ranting, not blogging. My apologies.

Peace.