By Shermain Bique-Charles
A religious group has released a position paper on the issue of legalising abortions in Antigua and Barbuda, which it expects to present to government some time this week.
Kingdom Leaders, which is comprised of pastors, bishops, and other religious leaders met on Thursday night to discuss the contentious issue after the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Lionel “Max” Hurst revealed that the matter could go before Parliament in the near future.
“Every Spirit-led member of this body, Kingdom Leaders, is strongly opposed to elective abortion for personal or social convenience, convinced that such is contrary to the will and the commandments of God. The body, therefore, says that any facilitation of or support for this kind of abortion is categorically abhorrent, deviant, and sinful,” the unified statement read.
The religious body said, however, with mindfulness of the mitigating circumstances faced by some women, as a church it is constrained to recognise that certain circumstances may justify abortion, such as a pregnancy that threatens the life of the mother or one that has come about as the result of rape or incest.
“Even under such circumstances, the body encourages women and couples considering the procedure to seek spiritual counsel as they prayerfully and conscientiously consider their decision since there are other factors to consider, critical to spiritual and cognitive health particularly for the woman in her reproductive state,” it added.
It also stated that, as prudent, contemporary thinkers, “we are further constrained to maintain within our fellowship (Kingdom Leaders – Antigua and Barbuda), those who, on the basis of continuous study of Scripture and prayerful evaluation, come to diverse conclusions on the issue.”
Additionally, the group said it must remain unambiguously decisive under every circumstance that as a general guiding principle on this matter, Kingdom Leaders – Antigua and Barbuda forbid abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, and sex selection or any reason of mere convenience.
”Technically, abortion is illegal in Antigua, but the law hasn’t been a problem since many physicians have been practicing abortions and many women have confessed to having it done.”
The current legislation – unchanged since the 19th century – cites a sentence of up to 10 years in prison for any woman who “procures her own miscarriage”.
Last Thursday, Information Minister Melford Nicholas said any efforts to legalise abortions will have to be done in consultation with citizens.
“This is not going to be an action that the government takes on its own … we are not gonna try to move to far away from the population. This is going to be based on consultation and it has to represent the norm in the society,” he said.