FABIAN Picardo welcomed the result of the referendum which saw voters in Gibraltar choose to relax its draconian anti-abortion law and acknowledged that it was now time to heal the rift over the issue.
“I want to congratulate the yes campaign” the Chief Minister said after the result that saw 62% vote to relax the law to allow abortion up to 12 weeks, with 36% voting against.
“But I want to also hold out a hand of friendship and continued dialogue to the parties who campaigned for ‘No’. I consider all of you to be Gibraltarian patriots,” he said in a statement following the vote on Thursday June 24.
“We must also start the work of reunifying our people tonight. And the unifying zeal must start today and must go out from this place to everyone in our community. I’ve seen many instances today of friends holding each other despite defending opposite views.
“That is the spirit of Gibraltar. Although we may disagree with each other on some matters, we are always united in the defence of Gibraltar and its wider interests and the interests of all.
“Gibraltarians, regardless of party, political affiliation, colour, creed or other differentiation. And that unity is what we must start to concentrate on now,” he urged.
Speaking to crowds after the result came in, Isobel Ellul, spokeswoman for the Gibraltar for Yes campaign, said triumphantly:
“Well, today, Gibraltar voted Yes. Yes for human rights. Yes for women and girls. Yes for trusting doctors and health care professionals. Yes for choice. Yes for compassion and empathy. Yes for healthcare and care. Yes for reproductive rights. Yes for female bodily autonomy. And yes for abortion that is at home, safe and legal.”
For those opposed to the law change, the result came as a blow after months of hard-fought campaigning.
“It’s disappointing for us as we feel it is a very extreme law,” said spokeswoman for Save Babies, Vote No, Karenza Morillo.
“Once the laws are brought in it is very difficult to get the extra services for women that were promised. Abortions do increase year by year in other countries where it has been legalised,” she said, adding that the Gibraltar Pro-Life Movement will continue to support women affected by the issue.
Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi, who supported the ‘vote no’ campaign echoed calls for unity.
“It is now important for the community to try to heal and go forward and ensure that we at least find some common ground on at least these important issues that affect women,” he said.