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Abortion Law changes move closer

Abortion Law changes move closer

Friday 19 June 2020

Abortion Law changes move closer


HSC's proposed changes to the Abortion remain intact, but not yet approved, after amendments that suggested changing the cut-off point to 16 or 22 weeks failed to gain support in the States.

The States is two days in to a lengthy and emotive debate on the first significant overhaul of Guernsey's abortion laws since 1997.

Health & Social Care want to double the Category C abortion threshold from 12 to 24 weeks and remove the 24 week limit on pregnancies involving an abnormal foetus, among a host of changes designed to improve the experience for women. 

Their proposals have been subject to numerous challenges from other States members, who have suggested different thresholds and other technical changes to the proposed legislation. 

Deputies Andrea Dudley-Owen and Richard Graham failed to convince the States to change the threshold to 16 weeks, with that amendment losing by 26 votes to 12.

Deputies Jonathan Le Tocq and Andrea Dudley-Owen were then unsuccessful with a 22 week alternative, by 25 votes to 14.

Other amendments that failed to gain States backing included most notably, a proposal to set the same threshold for all types of abortion, apart from those that posed a grave threat to the mother or involved a fatally disabled foetus. That was thrown out by 27 votes to 10.

Deputy Andrea Dudley Owen

Pictured: Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen wanted to change the abortion threshold in the final propositions to 16 weeks, rather than 24 as put forward by HSC. 

Deputy Le Tocq summarised his motivation for seeking a "compromise" solution between the current 12 week threshold for Category C abortions and the 24 week threshold that HSC said has the backing of medical professionals.

"It is not just a simple matter of being on one side or the other," he said. "Many in the community feel somewhere in between and they are uncomfortable with the proposals as they stand and want a pragmatic compromise. Those people need to be brought along as much as possible to a position they can live with."

Deputy Dudley-Owen saw no justification in aligning Guernsey's threshold with the UK's 24-week limit, where there has been a spike in abortion numbers in recent years that she said had not been seen locally. 

However, they were unable to convince the States in two fairly comprehensive votes. 

The States have agreed to resume this meeting, in the Royal Court chamber next Wednesday, to complete general debate on HSC's proposals, which could yet be approved in part or in full. 

Those proposals can be read in their entirety HERE.

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