THREE UK experts have pushed for better abortion care in Gibraltar on International Women’s Day.

Two of them told the Olive Press things must improve for women in the Overseas Territory, where abortion is still illegal.

“The situation in Gibraltar at the moment is morally and legally indefensible,” said Rachael Clarke, of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS).

“We are in the exact same situation as Northern Ireland where women are accessing abortion unsafely.

“They are doing it without medical oversight and in ways that can put them at serious risk.”

The three women at the conference held at the Unite the Union HQ

Clarke – who regularly advises Westminister on abortion – said the only way forward is making abortion ‘safe, legal and free’.

“Abortion should be available for the first 14 weeks without any restrictions,” she said.

“Up to 24 weeks, if there are going to be serious physical or mental health effects, those women should also be covered.

“They shouldn’t be placed in jail for trying to exercise control over their own bodies.”

Colonial hangover

Clarke said that the UK is one of the only places in the world which requires two doctors to approve an abortion while in France there has been free abortion since 1975.

“You should not be under any obligation to seek out another doctor to okay a decision about your life,” she continued.

“Because in Gibraltar there are so few doctors it is an issue.”

A proposed Gibraltar law from last year suggests five situations where abortion would be legal, including the current one where a mother’s life is at risk.

The remaining four would make abortion legal in cases where:
– continuing the pregnancy would involve a risk to the mother’s mental health, as confirmed by a GHA medical practitioner. This provision would also cover cases involving rape or incest;
– there is serious risk of permanent grave physical injury to the mother as a result of the pregnancy;
– there is serious risk of fatal foetal abnormality;
– there is serious risk that a child, if born, would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously disabled.

“The proposed new law is an incredible improvement on the current situation in Gibraltar,” Professor Fiona de Londras of Birmingham Law School said.

“It will be sufficient for many women who want to access abortion care.

“But there are still a lot of gaps. It is not reflective of current best practice in law or medicine.”

Professor de Londras wrote a book called Repealing the 8th: Reforming Irish Abortion Law and has worked for a number of government departments on the subject.

She proposed ‘unrestricted access to abortion early in a pregnancy’, while still being available ‘as late as it is needed.’

“The current abortion legislation is a hangover from the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861,” added de Londras.

“One of the great legacies of British empire in many countries around the world was that abortion was a criminal offence.”

The conference hosted by pro-choice group No More Shame was held at the Unite the Union HQ in Transport House, Town Range.

It was just one of a number of events held around International Women’s Day today.

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