The Abortion Debate – Let It Begin!

Protests spread across the United States after its Supreme Court struck down a 49-year-old abortion law on 24 June, 2022.

The abortion law, popularly known as Roe vs Wade, is a federal ruling that allowed abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Immediately after the decision came down, dozens of states began to ban or severely restrict the abortion procedure. The decision has led to protests across the country, with those opposed to the ruling saying it would lead to limits on women’s control of their own bodies.

Supporters of the decision say it was long overdue.

The outcry that followed the ruling in the United States seems to have filtered, in small measure, to Saint Lucia, as women and men took to social media to express their opinions on the subject.

What fascinated us is that none of the women we found on social media who had expressed their views about the US Supreme Court ruling, appeared to have an opinion about the abortion laws in Saint Lucia, the country where they live. They chose instead to vent their opinions on an abortion ruling which has nothing to do with them.

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, in which the Court ruled that the Constitution of the United States generally protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion. The decision struck down many federal and state abortion laws, and fueled an ongoing abortion debate in the United States about whether, or to what extent, abortion should be legal, who should decide the legality of abortion, and what the role of moral and religious views in the political sphere should be. It also shaped debate concerning which methods the Supreme Court should use in constitutional adjudication.

The case was brought by Norma McCorvey—known by the legal pseudonym “Jane Roe”—who in 1969 became pregnant with her third child. McCorvey wanted an abortion but lived in Texas, where abortion was illegal except when necessary to save the mother’s life. Her attorneys, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, filed a lawsuit on her behalf in U.S. federal court against her local district attorney, Henry Wade, alleging that Texas’ abortion laws were unconstitutional. A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas ruled in her favour and declared the relevant Texas abortion statutes unconstitutional. The parties appealed this ruling to the Supreme Court of the United States.

On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court issued a 7–2 decision, holding that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, provides a fundamental “right to privacy”, which protects a pregnant woman’s right to an abortion. (Wikipedia)

But what about our abortion laws, which can be found in Saint Lucia’s Criminal Code? Unlike the United States, which for nearly half a century protected a pregnant woman’s right to an abortion, Saint Lucia never had such a right, except where two medical practitioners have reason to believe that (a) the continuance of a pregnancy involves a risk to the life of the pregnant woman; (b) the pregnancy is as a result of rape or incest; (c) a termination is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman.

If the above is the case, then the medical practitioners may, with the consent of the pregnant woman or a person authorized by the pregnant woman, administer treatment for the termination of the pregnancy, if the length of the pregnancy does not exceed 12 weeks.

In Saint Lucia, women do not have the right to choose whether to keep a pregnancy or not, unless under the circumstances described above. This law seems not to be of any concern to Saint Lucians since it has not been a topic of national debate for as long as we can remember.

The Roe vs Wade discussion present in Saint Lucia is nothing but an exercise in intellectual futility if we cannot rope our own abortion laws into the discussion.

And yes, our abortion laws had been in the spotlight over the years, remember the Sarah Flood-Beaubrun resignation from the Kenny Anthony administration over an amendment to the Criminal Code on the issue of abortion.

Perhaps now would be a good time to get the discussion on our abortion laws going again.

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