RESIDENTS on the Rock will finally go to the polls on Thursday June 24, more than a year after the vote on abortion was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On Tuesday, June 15 the ‘No’ campaign made a last-ditch attempt to persuade voters to ‘protect the unborn child’ with a march that began in Irish Town and ended in John Mackintosh Square.
Speaking ahead of the event, Save Babies Vote NO spokesperson, Karenza Morillo said:
“We are really excited and energised about this event which we believe will build on the momentum that is already there among the people of Gibraltar to protect mothers and babies here.”
Organisers were hoping to sway those who are still undecided which way to vote next Thursday.
But polls suggest an overwhelming majority will vote in favour of bringing Gibraltar in line with the rest of Europe on abortion laws.
A poll conducted by GBC ahead of the suspended vote in March 2020, suggested that over 70% would vote ‘yes’ to reforming what is one of the most antiquated abortion laws on the continent.
Under current rules, which are not implemented, a woman can be thrown into jail for life for having the procedure.
Instead, any Gibraltarian woman seeking an abortion travels across the border where the procedure is carried out in a Spanish clinic.
The vote on June 24 is the culmination of a campaign started in 2018 led by the Gibraltar’s Women’s Association.
The GSLP/Liberal government under Chief Minister Fabian Picardo studied the proposal for some time before coming to the conclusion it would hold a referendum set initially for March last year.
Registered voters in Gibraltar will vote on whether to enact legislation amending the Crimes Act to allow abortion under defined circumstances that relate to injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman, or where there is substantial risk of fatal foetal abnormality.
If the ‘yes’ vote wins, the amendment to the legislation will come into effect.
But if more people vote ‘no’, the law would stay the same.
Gibraltar’s strong Catholic roots have historically swayed the population to take an anti-abortion perspective.
Although the pro-life group claims to be non-religious a number of religious figures feature in its ranks. This situation came to a head when male religious leaders posed over the Holocaust memorial in Commonwealth Park in a campaign event widely condemned across the Rock.
Speaking in a live televised debate last week, Selena Victory from the Gibraltar for Yes campaign said:
“Every single international human rights and public health body supports access to safe and legal abortion services.”
“It is a fundamental healthcare right.”
“Abortion is one of the oldest medical procedures and will continue to happen whether we legalise it or not.”
“The evidence is clear – in order to reduce abortion rates we need to legalise and regulate abortion.”
In a panel discussion earlier this month, Marlene Hassan Nahon, leader of the Together Gibraltar Party criticised Gibraltar’s male-dominated political and religious hierarchy for their contributions to the local debate.
“It’s up to women to fight for this right and force the issue forward,” she said.
She underscored the importance of people turning up to vote on the day of the referendum, and was concerned that “Covid fatigue” which had set in over the past year would discourage people from voting.