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Watson: No move to reconsider abortion rights

Office of the Prime Minister Press Secretary Clint Watson said yesterday that the issue of abortion is not something that Bahamians are discussing widely “so it is not a priority” for the government.

“Not because something happened in another country you just drop your mandate and pick up something else,” Watson said.

“That was never a part of the Davis administration’s mandate and, to this point, it still does not become a part of it. Will there be conversations? We will see what the public is asking for.

“We will see what those who are involved in the industry are saying about it and whether or not it has any bearing on The Bahamas. But, right now, it is not a discussion that Bahamians are having here in the widespread as far as their involvement in it, so it is not a priority for the administration.”

Last week, the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade – a landmark decision of the US Supreme Court in which the court ruled that the US constitution protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion. Its overturning sparked international conversations about the right to an abortion.

In light of this, Watson was asked yesterday about the government’s position on abortions.

He responded, “We have not made public any positions at all since it’s happened. It’s just happened in the United States of America. We don’t make impulsive decisions in The Bahamas government based on what the US has done.”

Watson said the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the ruling will likely lead to more conversations about the issue.

However, it will not cause the government to “all of a sudden pick up a mandate of dealing with an abortion legislation because the United States did something”.

“That’s not how you govern,” Watson said.

“You govern based on what your priorities are. The administration was elected based on a specific set of priorities. That’s the focus of the government. You divert in the event of an emergency or you divert in the event of there being a clarion call for some change.”

The Bahamas’ representative on the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Marion Bethel, said in February that the decriminalization of abortion is among issues that need to be prioritized.

CEDAW has recommended that The Bahamas address several issues, including abortion and marital rape.

It recommended the decriminalization of abortion in all cases, and the legalization of abortion in cases of rape, incest and severe fetal impairment.

But, more than three years later, the government has made no movement on adopting this recommendation.

Abortions are permitted when the life of the mother is at risk.

But, abortions on demand are illegal and punishable by up to 10 years in prison, according to section 295 of the Penal Code.

Under section 313 of the Penal Code, abortion is justifiable in circumstances where an unborn child dies while its mother is receiving a medical or surgical treatment not intended to cause an abortion, miscarriage, premature delivery or the death of the child.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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