Sun | Mar 24, 2019

Michael Abrahams | Sperm flushing and other weird stuff

Published:Monday | February 11, 2019 | 7:16 AM

As the abortion debate swirls, more and more highly opinionated persons, from both sides, continue to voice their opinions and concerns and make their cases as to why abortion should or should not be legalized in this country.
Some of the commentators are well informed and are able to intelligently and rationally make arguments to support their stances. Unfortunately, some of those with the loudest voices are misinformed or just plain disingenuous.
A glaring and disturbing example was on display during a recently aired episode of the talk show ‘Insight’ on JNN (Jamaica News Network), where Father Richard Ho Lung and Sister Joanne, a nun, were engaged by host Michael Sharpe about abortion.
Father Ho Lung is a Roman Catholic priest whose strident anti-abortion stance is well known. However, some of the views expressed by him and Sister Joanne on the abovementioned programme are cause for concern.
According to Ho Lung, “there is a push in Parliament towards legislating abortion as being fine”. This is untrue. There is no push to make abortion “fine”. What happened was that a motion was tabled in Parliament to review our abortion laws.
Abortion is a serious issue and is not taken lightly. To say that there is a push to “make it fine” is disingenuous.
He went on to say that the Member of Parliament who made the motion spoke of a case of someone who had a botched abortion, and because of a “primary incident” a universal law is being called for. This statement is based on a false assumption and is fallacious.
Yes, the Member of Parliament, Juliet Cuthbert Flynn, spoke of the case, but during a conversation with me she spoke of others that she knew of which were also horrific.
Her stance is not because of a “primary case”, but because she is aware that in societies where there are laws that impede women’s access to safe abortions, there is an increased risk, and that morbidity and mortality from abortions is higher in those areas than in countries in which women have reasonable access.

A RATHER STRANGE PROCEDURE

But the icing on the cake, for me, came mid-way during the programme. Father Ho Lung and Sister Joanne disapprove of abortion even in cases of rape, but Ho Lung revealed a rather strange procedure aimed at preventing a woman from becoming pregnant after rape.
According to Ho Lung, “if she immediately seeks attention, the church allows, and sees it as right, the sperm that is in her body can be flushed out”. Sharpe was so taken aback, that he replied, “you almost knocked me off my chair.”
Father Ho Lung’s remark was irresponsible and utterly ridiculous. Firstly, “flushing out sperm” is ineffective in preventing pregnancy.
This is 2019, not 1493. Jamaica is well known by and connected to the rest of the world. We have Internet access and information is easily available. Father Ho Lung is a well-educated and well-travelled man. There is absolutely no reason for him to say something as stupid as that.
Secondly, a woman who has been raped is at a high risk for developing STIs (sexually transmitted infections). Attempts to flush sperm out of her vagina may inadvertently force pathogenic organisms into her cervix and uterus, from where they may travel to her fallopian tubes, infecting them and causing acute and chronic pain and possibly infertility.
Thirdly, after ejaculation has taken place in the vagina, if a woman has already ovulated, sperm can reach and fertilize the egg in as little as 30 minutes. Even if flushing out sperm were effective, many rape victims would not be able to have access to instruments and to perform the procedure in time and would be too traumatized to go and diligently do it or have it done to them.
Fourthly, there is a process that rape victims should go through after such an assault. They should present themselves at a police station to report the crime, and then be examined by medical personnel. This is by no means a quick process, and by the time she is subjected to a medical examination, sperm would have already reached inside her uterus.
Also, if a woman tries to flush sperm out of her body, she may be removing valuable evidence which would assist the authorities in convicting the assailant.

LACK OF COMPASSION FOR RAPE VICTIMS

If what Father Ho Lung said was idiotic, Sister Joanne took the prize for sheer lunacy and lack of compassion for rape victims.
Based on the assumption that flushing out sperm would prevent pregnancy, she said that she disagreed with the procedure being done. Her concern was that if a woman was raped, but did not conceive as well, she would not receive counselling and would be “lost in the system”.
That was a truly ignorant statement. She is obviously unaware that many rape victims who do not conceive present themselves for and receive counselling. Or maybe she knows and is in denial because she wants to believe her own warped narrative.
She believes, as she said on the programme, that all women have to do in order to prevent pregnancy, in situations other than rape, is “say no”.
Sister Joanne clearly does not understand the power dynamics in many relationships, where the very survival and well-being of not only women, but their children, unfortunately depends on pleasing men.
I do not believe that Father Ho Lung and Sister Joanne are bad people. As a matter of fact, they have lovingly taken in and looked after more disadvantaged Jamaicans that many of us realize.
However, people like them, who lack understanding of reproductive biology, human sexuality and psychology, have no place in an abortion debate.

- Michael Abrahams is a gynaecologist and obstetrician, comedian and poet. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and michabe_1999@hotmail.com, or tweet @mikeyabrahams