Wednesday, July 6

Yes to abortion sweeps no in Gibraltar

The yes to the new abortion law that eliminates life imprisonment for those who practice it was endorsed this Thursday by 62.03% of the 12,313 voters who exercised this right in Gibraltar. 36.62% opted for no. Only 53.75% of those registered exercised the right to vote, reaching the level of 23,343 voters.

Gibraltar votes in referendum on an abortion law to abolish life imprisonment for women who practice it

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Despite the noisy campaign by opponents of the amendment proposed in Gibraltar’s criminal ordinance in 2019, the massive victory of the yes will allow the Government of Fabian Picardo, within 28 days, to enact the Law that will allow abortion in the Rock up to 12 weeks of gestation and other assumptions that are related to the life and health of pregnant women and their fetuses. Until now, termination of pregnancy was only allowed in the case of risk to the mother. The prohibition did not understand other assumptions and, at least on paper, a woman who decided to have an abortion and those who helped her in it, within the territory of the Rock, faced life imprisonment, although no one was ever convicted of said reason.

Until now, Gibraltarian women who so wish have aborted in Spain or the United Kingdom, whose law of terms continues to reach twenty-four weeks of pregnancy. The detractors of this legal reform – with visible prominence of the Catholic Church -, assured instead that it is an amendment that allows free abortion during the entire nine-month period of gestation, which does not respond to the reality of the rule.

A vote delayed by the pandemic

In the end, this hard-fought pulse that has motivated marches by those who were in favor or against the new law, was finally settled with 7,656 affirmative votes and 4,520 negative votes, which could be deposited in the ten polling stations opened for the occasion and which closed their polls at ten o’clock at night. The campaign, in fact, has lasted almost two years, since that law was approved in July 2019 but was never promulgated by the Gibraltarian government. Fabian Picardo waited for his re-election at the end of that year to call the referendum in March 2020: the pandemic once again delayed it for another year.

Despite the dialectical tension experienced during the campaign – a strange phenomenon in Gibraltar’s political life – the referendum day passed normally and without incident, perhaps because – the local newspaper claimed so The Gibraltar Chronicle– The experience of the pandemic led both sides to show a less hostile attitude towards such conflicting points of view.

Despite the fact that the Government of Gibraltar especially encouraged voting by mail, only 329 votes were registered through this channel. For the first time, young people between 16 and 18 years old were able to exercise the right to vote and their presence was continuous in the different polling stations. 429 voters included in that age group exercised their right, although 534 had registered to do so, an essential requirement in the electoral mechanics of La Roca. Of course, 57 percent of the voters were women, compared to 43 percent of men, another significant figure.

“Heal wounds”

“It is a pleasure to see Gibraltar return to the polls as usual in peace having heard all the arguments from all parties that had something to say in this important seminal referendum on women’s reproductive rights,” said Picardo.

As soon as he voted, Fabian Picardo, who once again emerged from the polls successfully as he insisted on submitting to a referendum what could have been enacted as ordinary law, assured: “I am anxious for this day to go down in history.” So it has been. Opposition leader Keith Azopardi, who has campaigned for “No,” said the referendum has been “emotional and divisive.” An opinion shared, from the feminist angle and in favor of yes, the deputy of Together Gibraltar, Marlene Hassan Nahon, who assured that said divisions in Gibraltarian society would not have been substantiated if instead of convening the consultation, the local government had bet for legislating without popular endorsement and by virtue of the parliamentary majority that would have allowed it to do so. Of course, to heal wounds, the main deputy minister, the liberal Joseph García, is committed to reconciliation: “It is important that once the result is recognized, everyone rejoins that atmosphere of family community that Gibraltar always had.” Now, many Gibraltarian women may still go to London or La Línea to voluntarily terminate their pregnancy. But, to a large extent, as of next July, they will be able to do so in Gibraltar, under certain conditions and without the written threat of spending the rest of their life in prison.