Evangelical Alliance opposes moves to change abortion laws in Antigua

By Chris Eyte |
Pregnant woman silhouette
Unsplash / Mulyadi

The Government of Antigua & Barbuda has deferred the issue of legalizing abortions when a mother’s life is not endangered to a law court after the country’s evangelical alliance opposed moves by pro-choice campaigners claiming that the country’s historic abortion laws are unconstitutional.

Gynecologist Dr. Dane Abbott filed a constitutional lawsuit with other pro-choice campaigners before Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin on June 10. The case is reportedly due to be heard at Antigua and Barbuda’s High Court this September. 

Antigua & Barbuda Government Cabinet spokesman Lionel Max Hurst would not comment in detail on the proceedings pending the outcome of the court hearing. 

“Since this matter is before the judiciary, the executive will not comment on it. But we're leaving it to the people of Antigua and Babila, and the churches especially in Antigua and Babila, for them to determine what is reasonable and what is not. And the people of Antigua and Babila will be so guided,” Hurst reportedly said. “But at the moment, the law remains as is, until and unless there is an order coming from the higher courts that will compel us.”

Hurst said that the government would be “listening to everyone” but any decisions made by lawmakers would depend on the outcome of the lawsuit.  

“That is, the executive will act on the basis of what the court orders, and the legislature will very likely follow the same route,” he asserted.

Under current laws, namely the Offences Against the Person Act 1895, Part IX (Attempts to Procure Abortion), any woman “being with child”, who unlawfully takes poison or “other noxious thing” or any instrument, or any other means to cause a miscarriage is “guilty of felony” and faces up to 10 years in prison, “with or without hard labor.” 

The Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1937 carries the same sentence for anyone who “causes a child to die before it has an existence independent of its mother.” The only exception is if the mother’s life is in danger.   

The President of the Antigua & Barbuda Evangelical Alliance (ABEA), The Rev. Olson Daniel, told Antigua Observer Newspaper that peaceful protests against the measure were being considered. 

“The Evangelical Alliance is of the very strong persuasion that what the Bible says is what we should live by – that somebody is not just somebody when they are born,” Daniel reportedly told the newspaper. “They are from the very inception in the womb. This case was filed by a practitioner who, of course, if he’s given the rights to abortion, it will be for his or for their financial gain.

“Now, if our birth rate is less than two percent, it means that the nation would be underpopulated. If the death rate stays constant or escalates and the birth rate reduces, do the math, in the next 20, 30, 40 years, what’s the population going to be? 

“Additionally, you also look at the whole idea of who will be continuing to support Social Security.”

In July 2022, a group of church pastors, bishops and other religious leaders, known as ‘Kingdom Leaders’ issued a public statement anticipating that the issue of abortion would be debated in parliament in the near future.  

“Every Spirit-led member of this body, Kingdom Leaders, is strongly opposed to elective abortion for personal or social convenience, convinced that such is contrary to the will and the commandments of God. The body, therefore, says that any facilitation of or support for this kind of abortion is categorically abhorrent, deviant, and sinful,” said the Kingdom Leaders statement.