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Panel discusses ‘safe’ options for unplanned pregnancy

A panel of experts yesterday underscored the importance of education alongside “safe and compassionate” options including abortion for women and girls faced with an unplanned pregnancy.

Rachel Clarke, the Public Affairs and Advocacy Manager at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, Stephen Horne, political advisor for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Professor Dame Lesley Regan, the Chair of the UK's Abortion Taskforce and the former President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists joined Together Gibraltar at their offices yesterday for a discussion on the topic ahead of the referendum on March 19.

Ms Clarke, who visited Gibraltar last year to deliver talks and spoke to young women on the issue, explained she was “horrified” by some of the things young women and girls would consider doing if they became pregnant and did not want to continue with the pregnancy.

She said: “There were stories in school about how if you had an unplanned pregnancy you could end it by leaning over the sink and drinking a bottle of vodka, you could have a hot bath, or if you walked far enough up the Rock then somehow you wouldn’t be pregnant anymore.”

Ms Clarke said the impact of that on a woman’s mental and physical health would be “absolutely devastating”.

She added: “If there’s one thing that you chose to do before the referendum it would be to talk to a woman under the age of 25 and ask her what she and her friends would do if she became pregnant and she didn’t want to continue with that pregnancy.”

“Because, quite honestly, I think you would be shocked, I am shocked.”

“I cannot believe that in Western Europe there is a situation where a girl is considering drinking bleach rather than going to a hospital to end her pregnancy.”

Professor Regan said it was “absolutely crucial” that women have access to safe and compassionate care in this area, “because without it tragedies occur.”

She explained: “Abortion never goes away, if it becomes difficult to access or is illegal it goes underground and we’ve seen tragic consequences. That’s why we introduced our 1967 Abortion Act.”

Similarly, Mr Horne said abortion was an essential aspect of women’s healthcare and that women and girls were already having abortions, “they’re just not having them in Gibraltar.”