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Abortion reforms get States approval

Abortion reforms get States approval

Wednesday 24 June 2020

Abortion reforms get States approval


Deputies have agreed to double abortion time limits from 12 to 24 weeks and remove time limits on abortions of abnormal foetuses.

The States backed all of Health & Social Care's proposals following a long and often emotive debate that saw repeated attempts from some States members to introduce shorter time limits than the 24 weeks proposed by HSC.

HSC Committee Member Emilie McSwiggan, who gave the closing speech before the vote, said relaxing the 12-week limit was driven by a desire to find a "compassionate and fair" balance between a number of medical and ethical complexities, and respecting the difficult choice that women have to make in a short time period.

"The time limits the committee are recommending are time limits before which very few babies survive, and if they do, tend not to survive for very long at all," she said. 

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Pictured: Campaigners on both sides petitioned States members on their way in to the Royal Court chamber. 

"This is not going to be an easy issue where we have settled conscience and convenient answers but what we are trying to do is find a way through that is as compassionate as it can be, which is as fair as it can be, which balances and reflects the choices that people have to make and allows people to make those choices safely and within the context of a legal framework that is clear and modern and fair."

The current 12-week limit was described as being "inequitable and indefensible" by some Deputies, who said that women with more money are able to go to the UK for the procedure, creating an inequity over abortions between those who can and cannot afford to pay. 

Debate on the proposals have stretched out over an entire week, starting last Thursday before adjourning over the weekend and recommencing this morning. 

Proposals for shorter time limits have been put forward and rejected, as Friday's debate saw HSC edge closer to getting their proposals over the line

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Pictured: Deputy Jeremy Smithies was the only States member to vote against all of HSC's propositions.

In the end, States members agreed to reform the 23-year-old Abortion Law to 24 weeks for Category C abortions and by removing the time limits on abortions where the foetus is found to have an abnormality, which is normally identified through screening around 20 weeks in to the pregnancy. 

Deputies supported those proposals by 23 votes to 13.

States members also voted to decriminalise a woman ending or attempting to end her own abortion by 36 to 1, with Deputy Jeremy Smithies the sole objector. 

And Deputies voted to remove a woman's requirement to consult a second medical practitioner before going ahead with an abortion by 28 to 9.

All of the proposals and their voting records can be accessed HERE under 'propositions and policy letters'.

Pictured top: Pro-choice campaigners outside the States this morning.  

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Posted by Anthony Webber on
On this issue, Guernsey is leading the way and this is a positive step forward for women's rights.
As a former States Member who supported the first set of reforms a few years ago, it was known then that further progress would need to be made.
Well done to the States of Guernsey for moving forward on this very difficult and emotional issue.
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