The Antigua Planned Parenthood Association (APPA) has applauded the government’s plans to re-examine the country’s existing abortion laws, following the recent US Supreme Court decision to overturn the Roe v Wade ruling.
And in light of those plans, the government has been encouraged to be bold and establish a precedent for the rest of the Caribbean to follow.
Abortion is currently illegal in the twin island nation, despite the procedure being widely available. A 19th century law cites a sentence of up to 10 years in prison for any woman “who procures her own miscarriage”.
In a media statement jointly issued with the regional branch of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF ACRO), APPA said it is pleased policymakers have heard the call of millions of women worldwide, in the wake of the ruling that revoked the constitutional rights of Americans to abortions.
It noted while the practice has been criminalised in Antigua and Barbuda for over a century, there is an acknowledgement that the law has not, and does not prevent abortions.
According to Executive Director at the APPA, Lyndale Weaver-Greenaway, what it does is restrict access to safe and timely medical care.
“The recognition that the current legislation has caused more harm than good is certainly an encouraging first step toward the right to bodily autonomy for the women and girls in the country,” she said in a statement.
Weaver-Greenaway added that decriminalising abortion would mean improved access to often life-saving care for women.
IPPF ACRO Deputy Regional Director Dona Da Cosa Martinez also commended the government’s recognition of the need to re-examine restrictive laws that do more harm than good for its citizens.
“Antigua and Barbuda is now at the height of making the changes necessary to ensure the protection and fulfilment of the human rights of all its citizens, to have full access to reproductive care,” she noted.
In doing so, she added, the twin island nation will be establishing a precedent for the rest of the Caribbean to follow.
“Now is the time for regional leaders to ensure free and full access to safe abortion care in all their countries,” Martinez declared.
The country’s abortion laws were set to be discussed during the most recent sitting of Parliament, and the government has previously said it intends to hold public consultations on the matter.
However, with the current environment one of ‘don’t ask/don’t tell’, there is no evidence things will change as a matter of urgency.