On June 24th 2021, the people of Gibraltar voted to change the territory’s strict abortion ban, which held that abortion was punishable by life imprisonment for the pregnant person, and anyone who helped them get an abortion.
Abortion is now permitted in the following circumstances:
- ‘where termination is needed to prevent “grave permanent” injury to mental or physical health
- where there is a substantial risk of fatal foetal abnormality
- where the pregnancy would risk the life of the pregnant person
- and where the pregnancy involves risk to the mental or physical health of the person, greater than the risk if the pregnancy were terminated (no later than 12 weeks into the pregnancy).’
Abortion has been highly stigmatised among Gibraltar’s small community of 33,000, according to Mara Clarke from the Abortion Support Network, a charity that supports people from Gibraltar (and other countries) travelling for abortion. Some of the network’s clients reported that they feared even being seen buying a pregnancy test in a pharmacy because word might get back to their friends and family. Clarke says being able to “speak openly and publicly” to healthcare providers about abortion in Gibraltar will be transformative.
This step may be a long time coming, but the success of this referendum is an important step towards greater abortion rights in Europe.
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