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On both sides of abortion debate, a lukewarm response to draft legislation

Gibraltar Photo by Eyleen Gomez

Local pro-choice and pro-life activists have responded to the Gibraltar Government’s recently-published Abortion Bill with “concern” and “disappointment”.

The Government’s draft legislation will amend and clarify the law on abortion which will permit legal abortions under certain conditions should it be approved by Parliament.

Pro-choice groups No More Shame Gibraltar and Choice Gibraltar both said the draft legislation does not go far enough to meet the needs of women in Gibraltar.

No More Shame welcomed the availability of abortion services up to 12 weeks locally but added that the Bill “lacks clarity and direction” regarding services available to women with high risk pregnancies over the 12-week threshold.

The group added that not many suggestions from submissions such as decriminalisation and the need for only one health professional to prescribe a termination appear to have been incorporated in the draft legislations.

“The consultation process, which so many citizens of Gibraltar and international health and legal experts contributed to, seems to have been in vain,” the No More Shame spokesperson said.

“No More Shame feels that having grasped the nettle of abortion reform, an important opportunity has been lost by HM Government to be creative and imaginative to design much needed reform to the already outdated UK 1967 Bill where this draft Bill is taken from.”

“To not welcome and incorporate the opinion of experts, instrumental in writing the legislation of Ireland and the Isle of Man, falls short of providing the women of Gibraltar with modern fit for purpose abortion legislation and services.”

No More Shame said it will write to the Government with its recommendations for the draft Bill and seek a consultation meeting with the Minister for Health.

A spokesperson for Choice Gibraltar said despite extensive arguments and recommendations, including scientific facts and references to recent international human rights declarations from several pro-choice groups, the command paper was “barely amended”.

“The opportunity to introduce progressive and forward thinking legislation, that will not need to be revised in a few short years, is passing by us,” the spokesman added.

“Political expediency has been put before the best advice provided by local and international experts, medical professionals and the needs of our community.”

“Once again women and their reproductive rights have been treated as second-class citizens.”

For their part, the Gibraltar Pro-Life Movement said the Government’s draft Bill is “almost a duplication of the UK’s 1967 Abortion Act which effectively allows abortion on request by permitting terminations in cases where the mother’s mental health is deemed to be at risk”.

It said the Gibraltar Government “is under no legal obligation to liberalise the law on abortion” and is calling on the Government to review its position on the draft legislation.

“The passing of this draft bill as it stands would be tantamount to undermining the principle purpose of all the laws of Gibraltar,” the group said.

“That is to protect, care for and educate its citizens, especially the weakest and most vulnerable.”

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