The President of the National Organization of Women (NOW) was recently put to the necessity of having to defend the right of women to exercise control over their bodies. This came about following the publication of views expressed by one Kamille Martindale who fits snugly into the classification of that anti-choice brigade whose subjective ranting seemed clearly influenced by raw fanaticism.
The idea that such a defense was necessary at the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century speaks volumes about the inability of some of us (who should know better) to accept that women have the inalienable right to determine for themselves if, when, or how often they should bear children.
Long gone are the days when women were seen as passive bystanders in the reproductive process and were forced to endure pregnancies and childbirth, not because they wanted to but because it was either considered good for the viability of the plantation or for someone’s sexual gratification in the prevailing male dominated society.
Today’s woman, thanks to education, improved quality of life and possession of a vision for the future which allows her to see herself as piloting her own destiny, will not accept what was the lot of her fore parents in “the bad old days”.
To link abortion to the declining population growth rate is that level of extravagant nonsense which only serves to highlight the superficiality which at times passes for informed discourse. The issues are like chalk and cheese and should not be confused by serious social commentators.
Mrs Hinds was absolutely correct when she questioned the existence of any reliable evidence to support a causal relationship between population rates and abortion as implied by Ms Martindale. I have long held the view that the demand for abortion is driven by our inability to reduce or effectively control unwanted pregnancies.
Those persons and groups who so aggressively condemn women who seek abortion services would do well to consider the plight of these women who, for a variety of reasons, are forced to endure an unwanted pregnancy. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act stipulates quite clearly the circumstances under which a pregnancy may be terminated within the four corners of the law and women have every right to access such services if or when they need to do so, without let or hindrance.
There was a time, especially in the 1950s, when our population was thought to be growing faster than was in the best interest of the country. In addition, the inability of the country to effectively satisfy the emerging social development needs of education, health, employment and housing among others, led to initiatives designed to empower women to have greater control over their fertility.
Those were the days when infant and maternal mortality rates were high, so too morbidity and mortality rates. It must be stressed that population growth rates occupy a completely different social development track. This suggests acceptance of the fact that each and every woman must be able to determine, in her own deliberate judgment, if she will bear a child or children, when she should bear them, how often and with whom. This right is sacred and personal to her and should never be trifled with or trampled upon.
It is worth saying that while I accept that population growth cannot be divorced from the social, economic and developmental policies and programmes of any country, nothing should be said or done to imply that women are to be blamed or made “scapegoats” if or when such issues excite public discussion.
I have spoken in my professional capacity on numerous occasions in past years about the formulation of an effective population growth strategy for this country, and the print media can bear testimony to this.
In conclusion, let it be absolutely clear that population policies are essential in any progressive society and further, that this must be the responsibility of the government in association with appropriate national stakeholders to ensure that such policies are realistic, reasonable and of the utmost importance and do not inflict any injury to the fundamental rights and freedoms of our women folk.
Regretfully, too many of us in today’s permissive multimedia environment seem averse to the painstaking acquisition of good and reliable knowledge and expertise in complex areas of national concern, but are seemingly never restrained by the recognition of such realities.
Abortion and population growth are strangers and long may this remain.
George S. Griffith
Social Development Advocate/ Consultant