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Two-Thirds of Women in Mauritius in Favour of the new Abortion Bill


The first scientific survey of opinions on the abortion Bill, published in the June issue of Essentielle, calls for public comment. But let us start by looking at the numbers, in general.

The internet surveys by the different on-line newspapers had all already shown consistently that around 70% of the population are in favour of the decriminalization of abortion, at least to the extent proposed by the Bill at present being debated in Parliament. The Bill will probably be voted next Tuesday by a similar comfortable majority. At present there are 69 MPs in Parliament, so 35 in favour constitutes the simple majority necessary. 21 MPs have already said in their speeches in Parliament that they will vote in favour. Since there are some 15 Ministers, who we believe will keep Cabinet responsibility, and who had by then still not yet spoken, that brings us to 36 already. Other non-ministers are proudly and famously pro-women’s rights, like MSM leader Pravind Jugnauth and MMM MP Steve Obeegadoo, Nita Deerpalsing, to name just one from each major party, which brings us to 39. One MP has already said he will be “silent”, another has said his position will be clear when voting time comes. So, only 9 out of the 32 who have already spoken said they will vote against, assuming Ms Navarre’s being “not at ease” with the Bill means she will vote against, and not abstain. Her vote against will be particularly shocking, because it means a former Minister of Women’s Rights will have declared herself to be in favour of the existing law, of maintaining the draconian repression, the 10 years’ penal servitude, against women and young girls in difficult situations of the most extreme kinds outlined in the Bill. It also means she will be doing a thoroughly irrational act by voting against the well-nigh identical Bill she took to the Cabinet herself, in person, when she was Women’s Rights Minister in 2003 without explaining the change in her position.

It is important, in the context of the irrationality in some political quarters, to give a brief outline of the only scientific survey of opinion on the subject. The women’s magazine Essentielle has, in its last edition, published the results of a survey of women’s opinions on the Bill, a survey it conducted jointly with the professionals, DCDM. The methodology is outlined in the magazine, showing respect for the usual parameters, and accepting a margin of error, assuring that the study could be taken as 93% sure of being accurate.

The survey shows that 68% of women are in favour of decriminalization under the four headings allowed in the Bill. This means that MPs who are still wavering should take note that 2/3 of the women who voted for them are in favour of the Bill.

Equally important is the fact that 75%, or three-quarters, of women believe that the question is one of “public health”. This also should “interpelle” our MPs, as they wander off into pretending to be experts on when life begins, and even resorting to quoting religious texts in the National Assembly.

80% believe that abortion should be “a last resort”. This is an interesting statistic, too, because it means that 80% of women, in fact, believe abortion to be something to consider, but “as a last resort”. These are over-whelming figures.

49% said they would, themselves, consider having an abortion if they were ever to find themselves in a tight corner, while another 7%, bringing it to 56%, said they would do so, if it were already legal. The figure of 49% of women who would consider defying a law that carries 10 years’ penal servitude shows just how cruel the law is to women, in terms of criminalizing us.

The Bill will pass. We would very much have liked to see it pass with support from all MPs, as a sign of their respect for the right of women to be able to take their own decisions on ethical issues, especially when we are all alone, living the extremely difficult moments of facing up to an unwanted pregnancy in these four “worst-case scenarios” that are outlined in the Bill. This scientific survey of women’s opinions should encourage MPs who are still wavering to take note of the views of women in their constituencies, women who voted for them, and who are suffering under the existing law.

Lindsey Collen, Member of the Muvman Liberasyon Fam, 6 June 2012