It is an open secret that Kingstonmouth.com support the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP), having successfully campaigned for Mr. Morland Wilson, who is now representing the constituency of Western Westmorland. It’s no secret also that our roots derive from the picturesque geographic area of west rural St Andrew where Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn is the sitting member of Parliament. We often find ourselves dividing loyalties in terms of our political interests between both candidates.
Some time ago while in the UK, we came across an article about Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, Jamaican Labour Party MP, who disclosed that she had an abortion aged 19 because of life-threatening illness. Consequently, she sympathises with woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. She received vitriolic opposition for her position on this from the religious rights and other Jamaican Conservatives, to include those within her political party who remained muted for political reasons as this is an issue that might leak religious votes on election day.
In Jamaica, abortion is a highly sensitive issue, influenced by strong religious beliefs and ultra- conservative leanings.
This 2019 JLP conference we decided to attend in support of both candidates, unknown to Ms Cuthbert-Flynn we got wind that she intended to speak at the Party conference on women’s issues. So we decided to support her and travelled from Stoney Hill into Kingston on the Labour Party coaster bus; the ride to the national arena was a spoof version of the Orient Express with Party supporters blowing vuvuzelas, ringing bells and “showaa” chanting through the bus windows. To be honest, it was a bit naughty but participation was fun in contrast with the sedate political conferences we attended in the UK.
On our arrival at conference things were better organised, devoid of the plumes of ganja smoke and rum drinking that were customary in the past. How disappointed we felt. However, the arena was bursting at the seams from green clad Labour Party supporters and from all indication the conference was shaping up to be a success in terms of turnout and organisation. Latecomers were refused entry for security reasons into the fully packed arena.
At 11.40 am Juliet Cuthbert Flynn, the Member of Parliament for St Andrew West Rural approached the podium and made well measured statements, yet avoided the subject of abortion. She spoke eloquently in a measured way against abuse of women in Jamaica. “Gender equality is a human right and we need to empower our women and girls and let them know they are loved and treasured,” Cuthbert Flynn told the massive gathering of JLP supporters in the National Arena. The first time Member of Parliament continued to explain that she was determined to bring greater awareness and action for women issues through her engagement with regional parliamentarians. She posited that a national campaign was required to address the major issues affecting females to ensure they reach their full potential and contribute to national development.
Tracking the rates of abortion in a country like Jamaica is difficult because many nations do not record or report abortion rates. This is especially true in nations where abortion is illegal, and no types of records are kept. In Countries whose governments fail to legalise abortion, there are often a higher risks and complications, including death of the mother, because of these illegal abortions.
According to Rewire News, Illegal abortions are one of the top ten causes of maternal death in Jamaica. Likewise, The World Health Organisation(WHO) estimates that about 22, 000 abortions are performed in Jamaica each year, collectively representing a significant section of the Jamaican population. If we are to accept this data it would seem that the current state of the law with regard to abortions being illegal in Jamaica is potentially placing many women at risk of death or long-term injury.
In Jamaica, the voice to have legal termination of pregnancies has been drowned out by ultra conservatives and the evangelical brigade. No woman in Jamaica makes the decision to have an abortion light-heartedly, the decision to abort a foetus is an immensely difficult choice. By bullying Mrs Cuthbert Flynn into silence the religious right continue to deny women in Jamaica a fundamental right of bodily entitlement and an important legal freedom. The Jamaican people must take time to mull over the matter, but in doing so we have to accept that while this debate is taking place, abortion should be legal for medical reasons or in the case of a pregnancy stemming from a sexual assault.
Kingstonmouth want to make an important point on abortion, albeit an awkward one. The rich ultra conservative Jamaican woman can board a plane to cities in the USA or Europe to have a legal abortion in a swanky clinic. The poor Jamaican woman is left at the hands of a backstreet quack paying heavily for an abortion that might possible end her life. So it stands to good reason why we at Kingstonmouth .com hold an un assailable liberal position on pro-abortion rights for Jamaica. It is a lobby position that we are proud to defend as it saves lives and places the decision firmly with the woman.
Kingstonmouth.com support the liberal position put forward by the Russian-American novelist Ayn Rand who opined that the notion of a foetus having a right to life is ” nonsense”. She asserted that, “a child cannot acquire any rights until it is born, further stating that “Abortion is a moral right—which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved.”
Throughout conference we canvassed individual members opinions on abortion. Most were vehemently opposed to legal abortions and others were accommodating of further debate on the matter.
During conference Kingstonmouth enjoyed speaking to the new G2K General Secretary. We discussed the ideological branding of the JLP and offered cooperation with speech writing and public speaking for its members. The G2K and the young Jamaicans had a huge presence at conference. In our discussions with them we impressed upon them to steer clear of being cow-towed into a narrow ideological framework. Instead, the JLP should be challenged to develop into a dynamic broad church with contending political views.
The staging of the 76th JLP annual conference was a success. Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn gave a good presentation but fell short of addressing the abortion issue in Jamaica. It is time for the JLP to tackle this contentious subject; we got the impression that Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn avoided referring specifically to abortion for fear of being thrown under the JLP conservative bus by her colleagues.
This article was written by Donovan Reynolds, CEO and Ann Smith, Managing editor of Kingstonmouth.com. Donovan Reynolds is an Independent blogger and Human Right’s Activist of Jamaican descent and a legal Academic who has an interest in Human Rights, Culture and International Development issues. Readers of this article are welcome to provide feedback at the space provided at the end of this article or at email@example.com useful commentary made on our Facebook and Kingsonmouth@twitter pages.