DR Faith BYisrael, Assemblyman for Belle Garden/Glamorgan in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), said on Thursday young girls were having abortions but should not be subjected to further pressures. She was replying to reporters questions at the launch of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF's) second regional office for the Americas and Caribbean, at Reserve Road, Trincity Industrial Estate, following one in Colombia.
A reporter asked her views about abortion being illegal in TT. BYisrael replied, "What is sad about that is that abortion being illegal has never stopped a young girl who wanted an abortion from having an abortion. As secretary responsible for health we see the negative effects of that.
"We see them coming to hospital after the fact that they have done something that's not the best of the options for them." She said young and old vulnerable individuals need to make their best choices. "'That's the best choice for me. It may be nowhere near the best choice for you.' But having the capacity, having the ability, having the fortitude to make that best choice, is where we want to go as a country. That is why I am actually here supporting my friend (Donna Da Costa Martinez, deputy regional director.)"
BYisrael recalled doing educational programmes on sexual health and sexuality. Asked if Tobago should be able to make decisions on such issues independent of TT, she said the THA Act gives some autonomy, along with proposals in the autonomy bill, but she would prefer to not to address right now. She said the THA makes policies on health and social welfare.
Newsday asked if her support for the IPPF could have a political price for her.
She replied that "the people will speak" at election time. "The fact is though that when a lot of the young girls reach out to me or when I'm asked to do health education sessions with young people, the questions that I get are questions that show that they want the information. The questions I get are questions that show they are actually making very difficult decisions for themselves.
"So whether that means there is a negative political fallout because of this at some point later further down, it is what it is, you know. I'm here because I believe people have a right to proper health care, that they are able to do what they need to do, and they have a right to be able to live comfortably in TT. "
Did she see Tobago as more likely than Trinidad in the future to become a haven for legalised abortions under new laws by the THA?
BYisrael said, "Tobago has been showing that we are willing to do the things that most people are not willing to do. I think that if it is a policy that needs to be made, it is one we are willing to do. Our chief secretary has shown that we'll stand up and speak about things that even central government has not been willing to do."
BYisrael said when questions were framed in certain ways, that served to force people to make a difficult decision on top of an already difficult decision.
"Believe me, as a woman I know that if a conversation about having an abortion comes up, believe me, it is already a very difficult conversation."
She said some questions brings "excruciating pain."
BYisrael urged a new conversation, of women having control over their bodies and having sex which is safe sex.
"In many instances a lot of them know that they don't want to get pregnant but are not in the financial or economic, educational or social space, where they can just make that decision for themselves." She said the nation's young girls and boys must equally be included in such conversations.