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Lockdown causes ‘unnecessary personal anguish’ for women seeking abortions, campaign group says

Campaign group No More Shame has written to the Chief Minister urging him to reschedule the referendum on abortion, adding that with the Covid-19 lockdown measures in place, Gibraltarian women have had no legal access to abortions for the first time in 40 years.

The pro-choice group said that it was alarmed to also learn that the Abortion Support Network experienced a 200% increase in phone calls from Gibraltar during the first six weeks of the lockdown period.

The number of calls made during this period is equal to half the total number of calls from Gibraltar in the whole of 2019, No More Shame said.

“It is clear that women and girls in Gibraltar have experienced unnecessary personal anguish as a result of lockdowns across Europe and the inability to travel to another jurisdiction,” No More Shame said in a statement.

“It is also now patently evident that the notion that there is no need for a change to the law on the basis that abortion services are available - at a cost - in Spain and the UK, no longer holds any water, not that it ever did.”

“For the first time in going on four decades, women in Gibraltar have had absolutely no legal access to abortion services, if only in another country.”

Gibraltar was due to go to vote on a referendum on abortion on March 19, but this was postponed in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking at yesterday’s 4pm conference, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, said: “This is an issue that needs to be considered in the context of the culmination of the debate which has been on foot now for some time and which will reach a conclusion once that referendum is held and the results are counted.”

“And No More Shame is right to point out that this is a first time when we have seen an extended period of frontier closure in circumstances where people who wish to have abortions or need to have abortions will not be able to access them in Spain, in the way that was considered might be the case if Brexit were to happen with a frontier that which was very difficult or impossible to permeate.”

“This makes this issue a very live issue, but I don’t want to comment further from this particular pulpit on this particular issue.”

The Gibraltar Parliament is set to meet later this month on May 28 where it will consider a future date for the referendum on abortion.