Abortion is a woman’s right – legalize it


By Sir Ronald Sanders

(The writer is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States of America and the Organization of American States.   He is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London and Massey College in the University of Toronto) 

The right of women in the United States to have an abortion, which has existed for 49 years, has now become a matter of contention.

This right, which was accorded by the U.S. Supreme Court on January 22, 1973 and essentially upheld again in 1992 and 2016, has come to be known as Roe v. Wade.  The short-hand name is derived from the original case before the Court in which “Jane Roe”—a fictional name used to protect the identity of Norma McCorvey— brought the federal action against Henry Wade, the district attorney of Dallas county, Texas.

It is important to understand the background to the action by McCorvey.  Abortions were legal in Texas at the time, but only for the purpose of saving a woman’s life.  Therefore, women who wanted an abortion for any reason other than saving their lives, including rape and economic circumstances, were compelled to have the child. However, women with the financial means could obtain abortions by traveling to other countries where the procedure was safe and legal or pay a large fee to a doctor willing to secretly perform an abortion.  These options were beyond the means of poorer women such as McCorvey.

Consequently, many women resorted to illegal, dangerous, “back-alley” abortions or self-induced abortions.  In the 1950s and 1960s, the estimated number of illegal abortions in the U.S. ranged from 200,000 to 1.2 million per year.

It was only after trying unsuccessfully to get an illegal abortion that, with the help of willing lawyers, McCorvey challenged the Texas law in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court by a 7-2 decision, struck down the Texas law banning abortion, effectively legalizing the procedure across the U.S.  The Court also declared that a woman’s right to an abortion was implicit in the right to privacy protected by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

This right is now threatened by an opinion, allegedly drafted by Supreme Court Judge, Justice Samuel Alito, who is said to be one of the most conservative members of the court.  The opinion was leaked on May 2, and he has not denied authorship.

As President Joe Biden has pointed out, “we do not know whether this draft is genuine, or whether it reflects the final decision of the Court”, but there is strong anecdotal evidence that the draft is genuine.  Therefore, it has ignited protests across the major cities in the U.S.  It has also brought a sharp response from President Biden and his Vice President Kamala Harris, both of whom, within 24 hours, issued statements defending “a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion”, and declaring that “basic fairness and the stability of our law demand that it not be overturned”.

The Black Caucus of the U.S. Congress also reacted strongly, pointing out that, overturning the existing law “will have disproportionately devastating impacts on communities of colour, marginalized groups already facing discriminatory obstacles to health care and, will resonate globally”.  Maxine Waters, the Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, summed up the view of the black members of the U.S. Congress when she declared, “women must fight with every breath of life, to resist, resist, resist”.

The fear that now permeates the U.S. is that the Supreme Court, which comprises a majority of right-wing judges appointed by Republican Presidents, including Donald Trump, will overturn the 1973 abortion law, making it impossible for poorer women, especially black and low-income women, to get safe and legal abortions.  Fundamentally, women would also lose the right to govern their bodies.

This matter is now a raging political issue in the U.S.  It will escalate as the nation proceeds to mid-term elections for the U.S. Congress in November.  President Biden has appealed to voters to protect abortion rights by backing candidates who support them in November’s mid-term elections.

The discussion will inevitably migrate to the Caribbean where women are today far better educated than in the past and where they have climbed the ladder of decision-making in government and in the private sector.  Caribbean women, too, rightly want the right to make a choice about abortions.  They do not accept that any Court or legislature should make that choice for them.  Anti-abortion laws have also worsened the economic condition for poorer women whose circumstances force them to become single mothers, trapping them in a life of struggle and deprivation.

In many CARICOM countries, abortion is not an option available to women, except to “save a woman’s life” as in Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica, or to “preserve health” which applies in the Bahamas, Grenada, St Kitts-Nevis, St Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago.  Haiti, Jamaica and Suriname prohibit abortion altogether.  Only three countries have a more progressive stance on this issue: Guyana allows abortions on request up to a gestational limit of 8 weeks, and Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines allow abortions for “broad social or economic grounds, rape, incest and foetal impairment”.

But it is an open secret that abortions are performed, as a matter of practice, throughout the Caribbean.  By maintaining the existing laws, women are being criminalized, and so, too, are the doctors who perform abortions.

Undoubtedly, apart from women deeply inculcated with religious dogma that oppose abortions, the time cannot be far off when women, throughout the Caribbean, like the women of the U.S., will use their voting power to demand their right to choose whether or not to have an abortion.  Men who share the responsibility for unwanted pregnancies, in and out of wedlock, should also join the fight to safeguard women’s right to choose.

Caribbean governments and legislators should open their ears to the position of women on this issue.  It is their bodies, their health and their future that are at stake.  They should be heard.

Responses and previous commentaries: www.sirronaldsanders.com 

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  1. The right is now threatened? You can’t be serious, Roe V Wade was a big mistake and any one of sound legal mind knows it, if the ambassador read the opinion he would see that it’s now looking to let the individual states decide what they want, I wonder how the ambassador feels about late term abortion?

  2. He is on his way out. What has that man done for The Nation.Since he was appointed as the Ambassador to the USA? For your eyes only Sanders.

  3. I think Mr. Saunders has spent a bit too much time in the U.S. Isn’t he supposed to be representing our interests to the U.S. not trying to impose their lifestyles on us? Women in the Caribbean are not interested in doing away with our offspring to make our lives easier. There are many other ways to improve our lives if Mr. Saunders would ask us instead of telling us what he thinks we want. Quite frankly women in North America, the richest country on Earth, should be ashamed of themselves for using so-called “poverty” as an excuse for baby killing. Fact is the U.S.A. has some of the most extreme permissive abortion laws on Earth, along with countries such as North Korea and China. Most other countries do not have such permissive laws because thankfully we have not all lost all humanity yet…

  4. It’s great that the Supreme Court wants to return decisions on abortion rights to the individual States. That way persons living in States that oppose abortions would no longer be forced to participate in something that they feel is aborrhent. Those persons who are pro-abortion can reside in the states that support their view. Seems like a very fair decision to me. Win-win for everyone.

  5. well if they can “decriminalize” marijuana dat turn men IMPOTENT and INSECURE so dem start bang dem woman because Johnson can no longer “stand up”….

    Effects of marijuana from long-term use may include:

    memory issues
    lower dopamine production
    lung damage
    persistent cough
    greater risk for heart attacks, diseases, and stroke

  6. Ron Saunders you should be condemned as a man for having written such an egregious opinion. A man is just a sperm donor? He did not participate in the creation of the unborn fetus? If the mother does not want the child. I am quite certain there a men who have fathered that child. Would want to see that child be born. Willing and able to care for that child and provide he/she a good life.

    Now, their are instances where aborting is practical and morally right. But to have the opinion that an abortion is a woman’s right is a pellucid, ignorant opinion. Would you have preferred your mother have the absolute right for you not to be on the face of this earth? Be practical in your opinions and not ride the emotional wave of the liberal agenda.

    With all due respect. Your entitled to your opinion. There are fathers in this world who despise that an abortion is a woman’s right and hers alone.

    I do not subscribe to that. It takes two to form a fetus and I’ll be damn if a singular decision will decide if a child I fathered is born or not!!!

  7. I am all for women’s rights. A woman has the right to live a full, fulfilling life, without fear, discomfort or damage. That is why I am proposing that we only allow abortions if the foetus is a male (what do we need more of those for anyway). We certainly do not want any more women being deprived of their right to life!

    A woman should have full rights over her own body. A body inside her on the other hand belongs to someone else…Imagine..it may even be a little woman…a black one at that! Wouldn’t her life matter?. If your mother had been considering aborting you, what would you have liked her to do? It is amazing and slightly comical to see “Black Lives Matter” protesting for abortion rights. I guess nobody told them 38% of all abortions in the US are BLACK, compared to 14% white. Why don’t they get busy saving THOSE black lives? Don’t they matter? I wonder if it has anything to do with their sources of funding…

    I hear it is astronomically more difficult to get an adoption in the US than an abortion. How can this be? Perhaps their focus is in the wrong place. You know what the bible says about hands that shed innocent blood…

    and while we’re on the subject of who my body belongs to and what I should allow to live in it…no, I don’t want your kill shot. Not now, not ever. Now go read the Pfizer docs.

    Good day

    • I guess that you are referring to Pfizer docs that purportedly referencing artificially Engineered SPERM!!!

  8. Apparently you have spent to much time hanging out with Democratic politicians in the states
    Who believe it is there God given right to MURDER BABIES !

  9. Ron Sanders craves attention. It doesn’t matter if it’s negative attention, as long as someone remembers that he exist. It’s a shame that he had no real impact on anything positive to Antigua and Barbuda over the past years in Washington DC or the many years he spent in London. Yet, Gaston Brown continues to line Sanders pocket for doing nothing while Antiguans are suffering. Real corruption and greed.

  10. Sanders is simply out of order on this one. He is NOT speaking for the Government or the people of Antigua and Barbuda on this one. He should be called home for a strong lecture and expression of disapproval. Antiguans have been consistently pro-life, and that includes all political parties in this land. Sanders should represent the views of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, and keep his variant opinions to himself. That is what good ambassadors do. He overstepped his authority again.

  11. Nothing more important? Nothing else in the political agenda than legalizing the killing of babies? Who are theses people?

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