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MPs unite around motion on bereavement leave after pregnancy loss

Archive Photo by Johnny Bugeja.

The Gibraltar Parliament on Wednesday unanimously approved a motion calling for legislation to provide statutory paid leave for parents who suffer the loss of a pregnancy before 24 weeks.

The motion was moved by GSD MP Elliott Phillips and was passed by all MPs present – Sir Joe Bossano and Albert Isola were absent – after a number of amendments were agreed.

It will trigger a legislative process which, once concluded and combined with existing legislation, will mean working parents who suffer the loss of a child of any age, or a pregnancy at any stage, will be afforded in law the time to grieve.

Mr Phillips, who praised the campaigning work of local charity Baby STEPPS in this area, said his initiative sought to close a gap in existing law.

“Pregnancy loss at any stage of a pregnancy can have a devastating effect on any couple expecting the birth of a child,” he said.

“Statistically, one in eight pregnancies result in miscarriage.”

“One in 90 are ectopic and one in every 20 is a stillbirth.”

“Tragically, some people have experienced all three.”

“For a number of families, pregnancy loss or miscarriage before 24 weeks is sadly not a one-off occurrence, doubling the pain and suffering for those who have gone through that experience.”

“It is right that we as a community recognise that parents in these circumstances may need additional support.”

“And I have no doubt that workplaces and organisations around Gibraltar understand the trauma and the need to allow parents the time and space to breathe the loss of a pregnancy.”

Gibraltar already provided for legal entitlement to two weeks paid leave for working parents in respect to the loss of a child of any age or those who suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy.

The motion called on the Government to legislate, either through new laws or by amending existing legislation, to provide paid leave for people who have experienced miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or molar pregnancy before 24 weeks.

The original motion was amended by the Gibraltar Government to reflect existing provisions for parents who suffer the loss of a child of any age or a pregnancy over 24 weeks.

A further amendment was also tabled by the Gibraltar Government to ensure women who terminated a pregnancy before 24 weeks, as allowed in Gibraltar law, were also afforded the provisions of any change in the law arising from the motion.

“I am sure that no one in this House will argue that the loss of that pregnancy is not potentially as devastating as a loss that occurs by other means,” said Chief Minister Fabian Picardo in presenting the amendment.

Marlene Hassan Nahon, the Leader of Together Gibraltar, welcomed that change, adding that pregnancies were often terminated in traumatic circumstances that were not of a woman’s choice.

“I do understand that some may take issue with the fact that the choice of having an abortion is different to the serendipitous loss that happens in the event of a miscarriage,” Ms Hassan Nahon said.

“And it is a point I had thought about deeply.”

“But as long as we as a society require that women who suffer from severe psychological distress be granted permission to have a termination, then we have the responsibility to respond to that severe psychological distress humanely so.”

“I am pleased that the Chief Minister has recognised this and incorporated it in the motion.”

Mr Picardo said that the motion and the legislation that will stem from it, coupled to existing laws, meant Gibraltar will be “…one of the few places in the world that will have in our law provision for consideration to be given to those who suffer such loss, whatever the age of their child.”

He said the Gibraltar Government would now proceed to draft the Bill for the legislative change, but cautioned that it may be necessary to publish a Command Paper to allow for consultation with business organisations to ensure an opportunity for feedback.

In an intervention during the debate, Keith Azopardi, the Leader of the Opposition, offered a personal insight on the importance of the initiative to grieving parents.

“Speaking as someone who has been in the regrettable position of having lost several children before 24 weeks, I'm very happy that in this House we are able to coalesce around the motion that will deliver a recognition of the devastating consequences of loss of pregnancy, which are devastating, of course, under any circumstance,” he said.

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