Read this story at the Jamaica Observer online.
See photos of Alveda King and Janet Morana in Jamaica.
AT the core of the pro-life stance on abortion, especially for the church, is the belief in the sanctity of human life.
This was reiterated recently by Father Richard Ho Lung during a tour of homes run by Missionaries of the Poor for disabled and abandoned children.
“Everyone has a human right to live, according to whatever level they come here at. All of us are different and we should just accept and love each other as we are. This is the reality! People are born this way and we should love them as they are,” Father Ho Lung told the Jamaica Observer.
It's a position he has held for decades. Just this year, while attending the hearing of submissions before a meeting of Parliament's Human Resource and Social Development Committee, Father Ho Lung told reporters, “I would prefer to see that I die than the future of our country eliminated and be killed.”
Instead of aborting children, those in particular who would be born disabled, Father Ho Lung said it would be better for mothers to consider leaving them in the care of institutions like Missionaries of the Poor, where he said disabled children have in the past have lived.
In cases where a mother might be told during pregnancy that her baby will be born disabled, Father Ho Lung said, “Give them to us. We have had many of them adopted. The parents of disabled children often feel ashamed; but there is nothing to be ashamed of. And I think these little ones are precious in the eyes of God,” he continued.
A feature of the tour was perhaps the demonstration of the enduring belief in the sanctity of human life — that even those who would be considered 'invalids' have a right to life.
Primarily, however, the tour was organised as part of a series of activities attended by pro-life advocates who were visiting from the United States, among them Dr Alveda King — director of Civil Rights for the Unborn and the niece of America's foremost civil rights activist, Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
Father Ho Lung, brothers at Missionaries of the Poor, Jamaica CAUSE (Churches Action Uniting Society for Emancipation), and Christians United for Life were hosting Dr King and her team, who were invited by the groups to support the anti-abortion campaign and the Church's appeal to lawmakers to vote 'no' on the abortion motion tabled in Parliament by Government legislator Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn.
“The current Bill before Jamaica's Parliament that would make abortion legal and available to women is seemingly in an effort to help women. But when you want to strengthen the family, the father, the mother, the children and the community, killing your babies will not strengthen your community. It will bring harm to the mother's body, the baby dies, you bring harm to the mother psychologically as well — so killing is never a good solution when dealing with the question of abortion,” Dr King told the Jamaica Observer.
Juliet Cuthbert Flynn, MP for St Andrew West Rural, moved a motion for the House of Representatives to take steps to repeal Sections 72 and 73 of the Offences Against the Person Act, which make abortion a criminal practice.
In seeking to strengthen her argument, she noted that death from botched abortions was the eighth-leading cause of maternal deaths in Jamaica, and pointed to a World Health Organization estimate of 22,000 Jamaican women, aged 16-44, who terminate their pregnancies every year in spite of the law.
The current law frustrates many Jamaican women, especially poor women, who are desperately in need of termination, she said.
At the same time, local church leaders have insisted that the medical and psychological risks of the procedure are part of the very reasons why the practice should be outlawed, even in the case of rape, as Major Richard Cooke, convener for Christians United for Life, told the Observer after the tour.
“Our perspective is that although there seems to be reasonable cause to have an abortion when you have been raped, what we learn from women who have gone through that experience is that this is not so. In fact, an abortion actually causes more trauma to the woman. With counselling and care and love, the woman is able to go through it to the point where she recognises that it is a second life and the innocent life is not guilty of the crime of the father,” said Cooke.
He said there are alternative solutions in these cases. “Some women are not able to live with the child after, so they give them up for adoption. Another experience has been that those who have the abortion also become depressed. Sometimes a woman's life is at risk and in that case, doctors, under our law, can take the child early, doing everything they can save that child while also saving the life of the mother,” Cooke said.
The Church has, however, been criticised for being quick to rebuke those who choose to have an abortion rather than playing a role in supporting, especially poor women, for whom an abortion is a reasonable response to an unplanned pregnancy.
During a stop at Holy Innocents Centre for women, Father Ho Lung addressed these sentiments, saying that the facility was opened in 2007 in response to the need of pregnant mothers or women who struggle to provide the necessities for their children.
“We decided that we would have a pro-life centre. The women who pass through here come because they are having problems with food, money, and need a place to stay. Mothers come here and they stay here, have their babies and, after a while when they have settled in, they find that they can get a job again.
“Some of these women who are pregnant and in distress are given ultrasound by the sisters, and once they see the little baby they will not kill the baby in the womb. We have had a least 500 of those cases of women who chose to keep their babies.”
Meanwhile, he has urged the Church to step up its support for women who, through various circumstances, find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy.
“There are some 50 churches [locally] now that are in defence of life. It is good when the churches can come together like this, but I think a lot of what needs to happen now is for them to do the work,” Father Ho Lung said.