- Abortions in Jamaica have once again been sling shot into the spotlight, this time by a set of articles published this past Sunday in one of the local newspapers.
They reveal an eyebrow-raising number of attempted abortions among patients visiting the Victoria Jubilee Hospital (VJH) and the reaction of Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton.
According to this week’s Sunday Gleaner, “between January and September of this year, of the 1,088 expectant mothers who presented to VJH with bleeding in early pregnancy, 91 admitted to having attempted to abort the foetus while an additional 47 had complications that suggested they had attempted abortion”.
Tufton has since ordered an audit that is to take stock of the abortions, together with an assessment of family planning methods, fostering and adoption as well as public education.
“It is a sad commentary on our society when women, mostly young and poor, put their lives at risk, with apparently not much consideration for themselves or unborn foetus … it tells me that we are doing something wrong as a society and that we are failing to adequately respond to their concerns and needs,” the minister is quoted as saying.
This is an instructive quote. It gives one pause to think on the contending views and realities, political and otherwise, of abortions.
But also, more broadly, on maternal, neonatal and infant health (MNIH) in the country and the challenges (and, yes, opportunities) that exist on the road to reaching Sustainable Development Goal 3.
The targets for that goal in relation to MNIH include:
- By 2030, reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births;
- By 2030, end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births and under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births; and
- By 2030, reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being.
These are sobering targets that warrant more than the audit ordered by the minister.
With unsafe abortions among the leading causes of maternal mortality, it is vital that this most recent ‘buzz’ not amount to a mere “nine day wonder”, as is often said of issues that attract much chatter but no appropriate response actions that yield real gains — from informed policy shifts to concrete local interventions.
Abortions are not going to fade into the background. The statistics tell that story. The Sunday Gleaner references a 2014 study that found “more than 43 per cent of expectant mothers who were admitted with complications had attempted abortions”.
Of that 43 per cent, the article said, “only 10 per cent had at first admitted that they attempted to abort the pregnancy”.
Isn’t it time to put to bed the “nine day wonder” and rise to action?
You can read more on this issue at the links below.