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Abortion must be kept legal, safe and accessible – a response to Kennard King

Abortion must be kept legal, safe and  accessible – a response to Kennard King


We have no idea what promoted Mr. Kennard King’s extreme assertion “Abortion under any circumstance is legal murder” (Searchlight, February 8), but we welcome the opportunity to respond.

Mr. King is clear, “regardless of the circumstances” of the impregnation, the pregnancy must persist. So even in a case of incest, or rape, or if the health, or life of the pregnant woman or adolescent is seriously endangered, she must endure the pregnancy.

That position would put the law in St. Vincent back beyond our revised law of 1988 and even further, beyond the law we inherited in 1861.

I admire Mr. King’s value for life.  But any pregnancy involves at least two lives – mother and foetus. To hold one above the other is at best dubious, and at worst criminal.

Any absolute position eventually yields intolerance.  Our history is full of the harm of religious intolerance. Absolutes invite horror.

Religion without compassion is both empty and blind.

Religion is not the same entity as the law. At its best, religion relies on voluntary compliance and seeks to lift us to our better selves.  It is a realm of faith and aspiration.

The law sets the minimal rules for by which all members of the community must all play. The law is about fairness and justice. It is bounded by social reality.

This distinction is why we separate church and state.  Link the two and we are headed for catastrophe.

The reality of abortion in the Caribbean is that the majority of women (more than 60%) will have at least one abortion by age 44.

The implication is that most men will contribute to at least one abortion.

So in our region, abortion is a majority phenomenon for adults.  That we deny this is simply a reflection of the profound stigma attached to ending a pregnancy.

Worse: almost all pregnancies of teenagers in the Caribbean are coerced, most of them violently. Yet we continue to focus on vulnerable female teenagers, not on the young men in their twenties who account for almost all of these pregnancies.

Mr. King congratulates women who choose to carry their pregnancy.  If that choice is voluntary and informed, we also congratulate them.  That is exactly what we want – free, informed choice – to carry or to terminate.

Mr. King speaks of the pregnancy delivering a Moses or a David.  In the last few thousand years, we have not had many of those. But research has shown that 18-20 years after making abortion legal there has been as much as a 30% drop in violent crime.

We inherited both our religion and our laws from our colonial period.  All our colonizers – English, French, Spanish, and Dutch – have moved away from the restrictive abortion laws they left with us.  

They have faced the social need to make abortion legal, safe and accessible.  We cling fervently to laws they have long rejected.

In so doing we harm our women, especially poor women.  Our restrictive abortion law is the cause of untold harm.  

It is time to move on Mr. King.  We do not solve our problems without facing them.  We need to face our reality.

Flavia Cherry