Sat | Jan 19, 2019

Mark Wignall | Many sides to the abortion debate

Published:Thursday | May 17, 2018 | 12:00 AM

It was September 1973 and we were seated at a small, squared-shaped table at a quaint, little board bar on Maxfield Avenue.

Dee (not her real name) was 19, I was 23, and pregnancy and abortion were both in a clash with what we saw as our immediate future. I was in a committed relationship and had had more than just one amorous moment with Dee. Now we had to face up to the responsibilities of our 'nights of sin'.

Dee was still living with her parents and they were struggling to make a living. The options facing us were obvious ones: carry the child to term while somehow finding a place to rent for Dee and the child, and me footing the huge expenses which could never be on any form of a temporary basis.

There was just no way in which I was prepared to bare all of my 'sins' to the woman who was on the way to becoming my wife and the mother of my children. I treasured that relationship too much, so preserving it by extricating myself from my 'extra-curricular' sexual excesses was the obvious choice as the financial resources and investment of a lifetime were just not available.

Of course, I could simply disappear and leave Dee on her own to find her way through life. Dee not only agreed to the abortion but she desired it with an urgency: "Mi father gwine kill mi, him gwine kill mi dead."

"It's not going to come to that," I said, then added, "It's going to be difficult for our relationship to survive this."

She simply stared at me and asked, "Why?"

I didn't answer. After determining that she was in fact pregnant we both attended at the little doctor's office on a road off Waltham Park Road. The fee was J$175. I gave Dee $200 and waited until the procedure ended, spoke with the female doctor then left.




"You had asked me why the relationship would not work. I am sorry to tell you this. I don't like the word abortion or the thought of it. It would just never work out," I said.

That was 45 years ago and a lot has changed in my views on abortion. Recent Gleaner-sponsored research has indicated, to no one's surprise, that 71 per cent of Jamaicans, 15 and over, believe that the termination of a pregnancy is immoral. Most of those, I believe, are driven by religion, culture and a widespread assumption that a woman's life and what she chooses to do with her body is the business of the church and State.

Jamaican's most well-known crusading moralist, Betty Ann Blaine of Hear the Children's Cry, has said, "I have dealt with a lot of women in my work for many decades, and those include women who have done abortions. I have not met one woman who has not regretted having an abortion."

Seems that Betty Ann and I have been speaking to women from different universes.

"Betty Ann is talking foolishness," said Gee (not her real name), a 40- year-old businesswoman. "I have one child don't want another and I did one abortion and, it is the last thing on my mind."

The harsh realities of life stand way out in front of those who would want to form a moral police force. Young women who have erred (sex encourages that) will opt for the $10,000 to $20,000 to end the pregnancy. And they are quite likely to sing loudest at church next Sunday morning.

The decision is never easy, but the choice must belong to the woman.