Abortion laws set to be discussed in Parliament next week

Protests have popped up across the US after the Supreme Court overturned the Roe v Wade ruling, removing Americans’ constitutional right to abortion
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By Orville Williams

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Government could soon commence discussions on potential changes to abortion laws here in Antigua and Barbuda, amid sustained fallout in the US from a major Supreme Court decision.

On June 24, the court officially overturned the historic 1973 Roe v Wade ruling and declared that the constitutional right to abortion in America no longer exists.

That move has been met with widespread protests across the country, with ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life’ advocates clashing during several of them.

In sync with that tension in the US, the move has raised questions about similar laws in countries around the world, particularly those where abortion remains illegal.

Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin had revealed back in May that public consultations were due to commence on the issue of legalising abortion, and now it appears some further progress will be made in a matter of days.

“The laws in Antigua and Barbuda need hardly be changed, because the practice is not very much different than if there were laws allowing it,” Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, Lionel Hurst, told yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing alluding to the availability of the procedure despite it being banned by statute.

“But the Parliament will convene one day next week – I believe it’s next week Tuesday – and at that meeting, I think we will have some discussion on the possibility of altering the law to enable abortions to become legal and lawful in Antigua and Barbuda.”

The US Supreme Court decision – of which a draft opinion was leaked in early May – saw abortion rights immediately revoked in nearly half of the states, with more restrictions likely to follow.

Access to abortion is now extremely limited across America, with only a handful of states, including California, New York, Oregon and Washington, maintaining strong pro-choice policies.

Hurst continued that, while the US is dealing with increased tension on the matter, Antigua and Barbuda is in a much calmer place.

“In Antigua and Barbuda, abortions have been declared unlawful since 1895, but because it is unlawful doesn’t mean that it doesn’t occur; there’s no prosecution of anyone for engaging in this.

“We know that it is better to have it done by a doctor than the practice used by some of having non-professionals engaged in this system – because it can cause permanent damage,” he said.

Some public commentators have suggested that countries, including those within the Caribbean region, could look to adjust their abortion laws and entice Americans to travel and seek abortions there.

It is not clear, however, whether the Antigua and Barbuda government has made those considerations.

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