Trinidad and Tobago: Health minister defends pro-life laws in face of Zika

Editor’s note. This comes courtesy of the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues.

Minister of Health Terrance Deyalsingh

Minister of Health Terrance Deyalsingh

Trinidad and Tobago’s health minister defended the country’s pro-life laws following a call by the Family Planning Association for the law prohibiting abortion to be revisited following the country’s first confirmed case of Zika in a pregnant woman. Health Minister Deyalsingh told reporters:

“That [pro-life position] is the law of Trinidad and Tobago and that is the law I swore to uphold…Further, one could look at the Code of Ethics of the Medical Board of Trinidad and Tobago, which tells doctors: you must not perform abortions unless the physical and mental well-being of the mother is at risk.

Those are the guidelines, those are the laws, those are the ethical guidelines which I as Minister of Health and a member of the Cabinet, and a member of government will be upholding.

“We feel that at this point in time, the existing laws reflect accurately the majority view of Trinidad and Tobago, notwithstanding anyone’s personal view or other associations which may have a different view. We feel that these laws are adequate to deal with the issue of abortion and reflect the vast majority view including and inclusive of the silent majority who will not speak on the issue.”

The health minister’s comments were enthusiastically received and welcomed in light of the growing pressure from the Family Planning Association, an affiliate of IPPF. Its press release called for immediate revision of the law against abortion stating that

“There is no (more) pressing time than now for the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to revisit its position on abortion to ensure access to safe abortion services for women who have Zika infection and might wish to have an abortion because of fear of microcephaly. There is need for an urgent response at the service provision, research, and policy levels.”

Pro-life leaders in the country have a petition, along with CitizenGo, to Health Minister Deyalsingh and Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley to thank them and to express support for their efforts to reaffirm their offices’ commitment to protecting human life.