Wed | Nov 21, 2018

Glenn Tucker | Give birth to legal abortions

Published:Sunday | October 28, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Glenn Tucker

Allow me to support the position of my MP, Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, in her position on the abortion issue. This is not an attempt to get her to fix the road where I live. Well, not really.

But I genuinely believe her position that a woman should have safe options for the premature termination of a pregnancy is sensible and practical.

Health Minister Christopher Tufton feels that it is time to have a serious discussion on the matter. He has ordered an audit after reports surfaced that at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital alone - for the first nine months of this year - 130 persons were admitted after botched abortions.

During my university days, many of my female schoolmates had abortions - some had several. Their position was that they had absolutely no intention of allowing an unplanned pregnancy to derail their careers. And this position seems to have been the right choice for those I still see. Only one that I remember decided to drop out of medical school to have her baby.

One of my first jobs after obtaining my first degree was as a social worker in the Family Court. One afternoon, as I was leaving my office, I heard a child screaming, "Why you have me? Why you have me?"

As I stepped into the car park, I saw the speaker: a 13-year-old, in a cheaply made, oversize dress with hastily combed hair and wearing a pair of shoes that had seen better days. She was addressing her mother - an overdressed, heavily tattooed woman, literally covered in jewels.

"... Eeh, Mummy?" the child pleaded, "... why you have me if you didn't want me?" If the child's words were disturbing, her mother's reply was deeply distressing. Ignoring three policewomen standing with them, she spewed a colourful, expletive-laden response that my prudish editor would not allow to be printed. Translated into 'decent' English, she said that she had, in fact, tried to "... dash you weh, three times, but it never work," and that "you a mess up mi life".

For a few seconds, the child's eyes widened and her mouth opened in apparent shock and disbelief. She then just collapsed to the ground and let off what seemed to be the combination of a guttural howl, a wail, and a scream.

The message it sent was one of helplessness, hopelessness, and dark despair. Her body was blocking the driveway, so I walked away. I don't have the constitution to absorb crying.

I found myself at the waterfront thinking that this child was not just crying. Her soul was weeping. A soul that would, by that time in her young life, be covered with scar tissue.

This experience led me to check - while preparing social enquiry reports relating to juvenile offenders - for as much information regarding the circumstances of their birth. None of those juvenile offenders appearing in the Family Court over the subsequent eight months was the product of a secure union in which the pregnancy was planned. There were a few single mothers who claimed they were 'trying'. But mothers cannot father children.

 

ARGUMENTS AGAINST ABORTIONS

 

Many of the arguments against abortions are based on religious positions. St Augustine, the black Christian theologian and philosopher whose writings influenced the development of Western Christianity and philosophy, used science to determine pre-soul and after-soul periods of pregnancies. He further determined that abortions after the soul was formed was a sin. Well, St Augustine died nearly 1,600 years ago. And the science on which he relied has long since been discredited.

Father Donald Reece shared his thoughts with us in a piece to this newspaper last week. He spoke of a woman who had three children but suffered from remorse about one she had previously aborted. May I say that the Bible never specifically addresses the issue of abortion. The problem arises with the anti-abortion lobby that bombards the gullible with horror stories, showing fake pictures of foetuses, and using phrases like 'murdering the child' and 'killing children', which, particularly for persons who take the Bible literally, raises doubts and feelings of guilt.

These persons also claim that regardless of the circumstances of conception, rape, incest illness, risk to the mother's health, poverty, inconvenience, an abortion should never be considered. They speak of God "providing a way" when faced with facts and no practical solutions are on the horizon.

And what, may I ask, should we do about the foetus who has fatal abnormalities? I have given voluntary service in a facility that takes care of these. They can do absolutely nothing for themselves. And after 10 or 15 years of all this expense, they just die. What is the point?

I caught up with that fellow student who gave up a medical career to have a baby. She is working in a non-clerical job in another island. She loves her child but confesses that she "really, really tried" to get her life back on track but was never able to. Her former classmate, who completed her studies, was, for a while, the senior medical officer in that country before joining the WHO. What haunts her, daily is just, "What if?"

If and when I meet my Maker, there is one reservation I will nervously challenge Him about our bodies. I will speak in parables as He spoke to us as I blame Him for the greatest problem facing mankind. I will put it this way, "You cannot rent the same space to Stone Love and medical researchers."

Why are persons who are not likely to be affected by this decision always deciding how women should settle this question? Abortion is not a moral issue. It is a health issue that should be strictly between the woman and her doctor.

May I urge Minister Tufton that since others are going to determine how women deal with this issue, they accept that abortion is not a settled moral value and our laws should respect individual conscience. The religious-inspired view on abortion is not superior to the secular view. It is, in fact, of less authoritative value as it is opinion based and not evidence based.

Whenever this debate resurfaces, my hope is that it will be evidence based and grounded in human rights.

Glenn Tucker is an educator and sociologist. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and Glenntucker2011@gmail.com.