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Some adolescents believe abortion legal in Ja

Monday Exchange

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Senior staff reporter dunkleya@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, October 29, 2013    

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A family planning expert yesterday argued that a low level of awareness about the law governing abortion could be causing more teenagers to terminate pregnancies.

St Rachel Ustanny, CEO of the Jamaica Family Planning Association, said her agency became aware of this lack of knowledge during a workshop with young people a few years ago.

"We were talking about abortion and, surprisingly, all the young people -- boys and girls -- felt abortion was legal in Jamaica because they knew where to access it, what was the price for it and that kind of thing," she told reporters and editors during the weekly Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.

She believes this level of education has fuelled the practice.

"So [their thinking is], if I become pregnant I know what recourse to take, which doctor to go to, and how much money it costs me, and therefore it is legal. I had to show them a copy of the law for them to actually believe what I was saying in terms of the illegality of abortion in Jamaica," Ustanny explained.

In June, Youth Minister Lisa Hanna attracted much notice when she called for a review of the contentious anti-abortion law. Hanna, during her contribution to the Sectoral Debate, lamented that the abortion issue has been on the discussion table for 40 years and declared that the debate needs to be reopened, given the increase in the availability of illegal abortion services and the number of women and girls having abortions.

In 2011, the health ministry reported that the number of women seeking post-abortion care at public hospitals had declined, even as the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported a significant jump in the number of unsafe abortions across the globe. According to the data supplied by the ministry, 13 women sought post-abortion care at State-run hospitals, including the University Hospital of the West Indies, in 2009, down 43 per cent from 23 in 2005.

Conversely, the WHO -- in its 2011 publication on unsafe abortions -- stated that the number in Latin America and the Caribbean rose from 3.9 million in 2003 to 4.2 million in 2008, with Jamaica and other Caribbean countries accounting for an estimated 100,000 cases in 2003 and 170,000 cases in 2008 -- a 70 per cent rise.

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