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Meerveld stands by Abortion Law sursis

Meerveld stands by Abortion Law sursis

Sunday 11 July 2021

Meerveld stands by Abortion Law sursis

Sunday 11 July 2021

Proposed legislative changes to Guernsey's Abortion Law are "morally, ethically and legally unacceptable", according to a Deputy who is calling on his States colleagues to backtrack on the already-agreed reforms.

In the original debate last June, Deputy Carl Meerveld was one of an overwhelming majority of deputies to vote in favour of decriminalising a woman ending or attempting to end her pregnancy.

He acknowledged that the potential for prosecution "creates a stigma and deters women from seeking professional assistance", both of which "seemed reasonable" to him at the time. 

However, he has since changed his position on decriminalisation having read the proposed legislative amendments in their final form. 

"The proposed decriminalisation of a woman aborting or attempting to abort her pregnancy creates an unacceptable moral, ethical, and legal deficit," he argued. "Something that was not made clear in the original debate and is what I found shocking when I considered the implications."

Deputy Tina Bury

Pictured: Responding to the sursis, Health & Social Care Vice-President Tina Bury said the 1997 Abortion Law was unacceptable in this day and age. 

"Decriminalising self-abortion for the entire gestation period from inception until birth (0-40 weeks) means that a mother can deliberately abort a healthy 'survivable child' at any time right up to and during the contractions just before birth at full term.

"The 'survivable unborn child' has no protection under the law. There will be no legal sanction to levy against the mother for this action; it will be completely legal."

Deputy Meerveld has been inundated with emails, phone calls and other messages since submitting the sursis to the States.

Some of those, he says, want to engage in debate with him, while some are "simply vitriolic" and "despicable" in their language and their "personal attacks on my character".

He insisted that being a "white middle aged male" does not exclude him from this debate. He noted that Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen was also subjected to "vitriol" after proposing amendments to HSC's proposals for extending legal abortion limits last year. 

"The sursis is there to make sure Assembly makes the right decisions on a matter that literally involves life and death"

He said of the proposed Abortion Law: "We must ask ourselves whether this is acceptable under our community's values, morals, and ethics. The unborn child is voiceless in this debate."

Responding to the sursis, Health & Social Care Vice-President Tina Bury said the 1997 Law was unacceptable in this day and age. 

"No one should assume that a person seeking an abortion does so lightly. These decisions live with that individual for the rest of their lives. To know that your choices are limited due to an outdated piece of legislation is unacceptable in 2021."

The committee's proposals - backed by the States in June 2020 - followed a review of abortion legislation in the Republic of Ireland and British jurisdictions, and consultation with health professionals.

Deputies Carl Meerveld & Liam McKenna

Pictured: The sursis has been put forward by Deputies Carl Meerveld and Liam McKenna.

Public engagement was undertaken last year and found the majority of responses to be supportive of the Committee’s recommendations.

"Despite not being a member of the Assembly last political term, I am acutely aware of the significant professional and public consultation that went into developing the proposals to amend the 1997 Abortion Law," said Deputy Bury. 

"Further research and consultation will yield the same recommendations due to how recently the research and consultation was carried out. In addition, all this does is push this issue further down the road and, in the meantime, the Bailiwick fails to provide fair access to care that meets the needs of the service user."

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