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On Thursday, February 4, 2021, the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) with the financial support of the European Union launched its latest report “Coming to Terms: The Social Costs of Unequal Access to Safe Abortions". The launch took place via a web forum, livestreamed to the public via YouTube, Periscope, and CAPRI’s website.
The report examined the negative societal and individual outcomes resulting from the unlawfulness of safe termination of pregnancy in Jamaica, and measured the economic impact of those negative outcomes. The research found that unsafe abortions are costly to Jamaica, and these costs largely accrue to poor, vulnerable women and their dependents. Complications from abortion is the third leading cause of maternal death in Jamaica. Indirect costs of unsafe abortion include loss of productivity and health consequences for children born despite attempts to terminate.
CAPRI’s Director of Advocacy, Dr Leanne Levers, delivered a presentation which explored the negative societal and individual outcomes resulting from the unlawfulness of safe abortion in Jamaica. Dr. Levers also delved into the positive impacts of safe access to abortion services, such as favourable socioeconomic outcomes and decreased crime rates.
The report made three recommendations:
1. A secret conscience vote should be held in the Jamaican parliament to repeal sections 72 and 73 of the Offences Against Person Act, which criminalize attempts to procure abortion.
2. Minors should be able to access reproductive health services, including abortion, without parental involvement.
3. Termination of pregnancy services should be publicly funded to ensure that the women who are most economically vulnerable have access to them, and bearing in mind that the public costs of complications of abortion and/or of unwanted children is exponentially greater.
Following the presentation, a panel discussion on the necessity of reforming the legislation surrounding abortion in Jamaica was held. Panelists included The Honourable Juliet Cuthbert Flynn, Member of Parliament and State Minister at the Ministry of Health and Wellness; Dr. Garth McDonald, Senior Medical Officer at Victoria Jubilee Hospital; and The Very Rev. Father Sean C. Major-Campbell JP, Dean of Kingston/Rector of Christ Church.
Minister Cuthbert Flynn expressed that the hindrance in moving forward with the legalization of abortion in Jamaica is the morality issue. She urged the church to be guided by the different studies and reviews being done on the issue as the illegality is resulting in women suffering from unsafe abortions.
Father Sean Major-Campbell agreed that poor women are suffering and dying because they cannot afford to pay for safe access to abortion. He has also urged the church leaders to pay attention to the data and approach the issue with more compassion.
The report, Coming to Terms: The Social Costs of Unequal Access to Safe Abortion, is available for download on CAPRI’s website.