Panelists call for a reform of the abortion laws to provide unrestricted access to women

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Obstetrician/gynecologist Dr Dane Abbott
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By Theresa Goodwin

[email protected]

      The majority of women in Antigua and Barbuda who opt to prematurely end their pregnancies do so because they are not ready to have a child.

That’s the view of Obstetrician/Gynecologist Dr Dane Abbott who was among a group of panelists who on Sunday called for a comprehensive review of the country’s abortion laws to provide unrestricted access to women, regardless of their circumstances.

Dr Abbott, who is also an advocate for women’s rights and women’s choice, suggested that if the laws are repealed to allow for abortion in the cases of incest, rape or because of a women’s health condition, only a handful of them would fit into that category.

“Ninety-nine percent of women   seeking abortions in Antigua are doing so because they are not ready to have a child. So, if we are going to change the laws, we have to include that ninety-nine percent of women. We can’t just sugar-coat the law, the law has to be effective, it has to serve the people that we want to serve,” Dr Abbott said.

He also shared details of a 2005 study in which he was involved several years ago that showed that about 87 percent of women seeking abortion at that time were single, 30 percent were married, and the majority of women that were surveyed at the time were of a Christian faith.

Insurance industry professional, Erica Edwards, also supported the call for a law that is not restrictive.

“A woman should have the choice of whether or not she wants to bring a child into this world. A woman should never be forced to bear a child that she does not want, or is not ready for, and is not ready to care for,” she declared.

She insisted that many women do not have the support system needed.

Political hopeful, Chaneil Imhoff, said that it is not just about abortion, but also a women’s reproductive health, sexual health and education as well.

“It’s the autonomy of your reproductive health, it’s not just about abortion, and we do not teach our young women and girls, and even our young men about proper health sexual education, and all of that, so it’s a holistic thing that we really have to work on,” Imhoff said.

The discussion come of the heels of the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Lionel “Max” Hurst, remarking last week that the abortion issue may be discussed in Parliament on Tuesday.

Weeks ago, Attorney General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin said that his ministry would at some point hold consultations on the abortion laws.

Meanwhile, Reverend Canon Reid Simon, an Anglican priest currently in Anguilla, said that he sympathises with people on both sides of the argument –  for and against restricting abortions.

He is however calling for a dialogue with several parties so that everyone could be properly informed.

“Let’s discuss, let’s hear what the doctors have to say, the lawyers, the sociologists, and whoever else is involved in the discussion; let’s see what they bring to the table, and that will shape our opinion going forward,” Reverend Canon Reid Simon shared.

The discussion on abortion stems from the sustained fallout in the US from a major Supreme Court decision. On June 24, the court officially overturned the Roe versus Wade ruling from 1973, declaring that the constitutional right to abortion in that country no longer exists.

That move has been met with widespread protests across America, and has also raised questions about similar laws in countries around the world.

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