Sands: Abortion reform not a priority

Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said while abortion is an issue in The Bahamas, abortion rights are not on the government’s agenda.

“We are about to put on the agenda, where health is asking for a compendium of health bills to go to the Cabinet and then onward to the House of Assembly,” he said earlier this week.

“A bill for abortion is not among them. And so that is not one of our legislative priorities at this time.”

Sands said if Bahamians demand legislation to legalize abortion, the government will consider it.

“This is an issue that is not a high priority on this administration’s agenda, but if the public demands it, then I’m sure we’ll respond,” he said.

He added, “As I read the current national legislation, it is very clear that abortion is illegal except in certain circumstances.

“I think it’s very important that we have a conversation, that that conversation be allowed to take place, supported. And then it drives what lawmakers do.

“We listen, you know. We actually listen to people. And if there is a groundswell of demand for addressing this issue, then I’m sure that it will move up on the legislative agenda.”

Sands, however, acknowledged that it is not uncommon to see issues related to botched abortions in the Bahamas.

“I think we see it not infrequently,” he said.

He added, “This is an issue, and in a civil society, we have discussions, debates, hopefully in a civilized manner, in order to make a more perfect country. And if we do that I think things are going to improve, and we’ll move this along a little bit. But it is an issue. And it’s an issue that has implications that are very far-reaching.”

An article in The Tribune last week suggested that people have easy access to abortion drugs without a prescription in The Bahamas after the paper’s investigator was able to obtain the drugs.

Sands said the government is concerned by the allegations.

“It is a concern, and certainly we have asked The Tribune to formalize their complaint and the Pharmacy Council will act on it and let the chips fall where they may.”

Sands said Bahamians may be hesitant to speak publicly on the matter of abortion.

“We have an underground culture,” he said.

“If we look at the number of people that engage in gaming, and you compare that to the outcome of the gaming opinion poll/ referendum, you may say there’s a disconnect. There may be a similar disconnect with this issue.

“But, social activists are not terribly minded to pay attention to what is popular. I think people are driven to intervention because, in their heart of hearts, they believe that it’s the right thing to do.

“And I am sure that whether this is a popular issue or one that people want to talk about publicly, that the activists are going to continue to talk about it until they drive it to where they believe it ought to be.”

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Rachel Knowles

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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