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ASPIRE seeks ‘safe abortion’ law

By Miranda La Rose Thursday, April 5 2012

click on pic to zoom in
Lynette Seebaran-Suite ...
Lynette Seebaran-Suite ...

Chairman of ASPIRE (Advocates for Safe Parenthood: Improving Reproductive Equity), attorney-at-law Lynette Seebaran -Suite is calling on the State to restructure the law on abortion to ensure women’s rights to reproductive health and to protect family life.

Seebaran-Suite was one of four panelists who argued for and against abortion in a debate — a part of the Great Debate Series — on March 29 at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine.

In spite of her strong arguments for surgical abortion as a public health issue, a total of 81.5 percent of the audience, in an on-the-spot poll, voted against abortion while the remaining voted for, at the end of the debate which took place in the Engineering Lecture Theatre One.

In her presentation Seebaran-Suite said, “We at ASPIRE are not in favour of abortion, but it is a public health issue that has to be addressed in terms of reproductive health and family life.”

It should be available, she said, in the portfolio of reproductive health rights and it is an important service that is owed to women of Trinidad and Tobago (TT).

Questioning statistics provided by her colleagues who argued against abortion on religious grounds, she said that statistics have shown that where surgical abortion is legalised the number of abortions tend to drop over a period of time. This is due to counselling which must accompany abortion, and the practice of contraception to avoid further abortions.

Contrary to popular belief that abortion was completely illegal in TT, she said, “abortion is law in (TT) to preserve the physical and mental health of women” in certain circumstances.

Dr Grace Sirju-Charran, senior lecturer, Life Sciences, noted that the argument of when life begins — whether at conception or after — is still being debated, whether it is lawful and unlawful.

Early feminists were against abortion, she said, while the second wave of feminists argued for reproductive rights for women and control over their bodies.

“From ancient times,” she said, “there has been no consensus on abortion.”

Even though abortion is treated as a medical issue, Sirju-Charran said, from her interaction with students, “the subject is not touched on in their degrees.”

“It is a failing,” she said, “in their medical training because abortion is considered illegal in all circumstances.”

Times have changed on ethics and morality, she said on the issue of the sanctity of life due to developments in molecular biology. Due to molecular biology, she noted a foetus could be developed in a test tube or through the process of cloning.

Over-the-counter drugs which could induce labour in a normal pregnancy, she noted, could also be used to abort a foetus. This is done in most cases by a female without any medical prescription.

Family medical practitioner of the Hospital Christian Fellowship Dr Garthlyn Craig argued against abortion and said that the unborn is a member of the human community who has rights and needs protection.

The unborn, she said, responds to music, the mother’s voice, pain and other stimuli. Attorney-at-law of Lawyers for Jesus, Hyacinth Griffith said she does not support legislation to legalise abortion or the death penalty.

Unlike her colleague, Seebaran-Suite who said that abortion was legal in certain circumstances in TT, Griffith said that “abortion is illegal in (TT)” in all circumstances.

“There is no basis, no justification, no economic, or social reasons ” she said “for taking a life.” There is a desire to preserve life, she said, but it is “unnatural to take a life.”

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