Gibraltar is holding a referendum on whether to introduce exceptions to the British territory’s ban on abortion
GIBRALTAR — Gibraltar was holding a referendum Thursday on whether to introduce exceptions to the British territory’s ban on abortion.
Abortion is illegal in Gibraltar, unless it is needed to save the mother’s life. Abortion is legally classified as “child destruction” and is punishable by up to life in prison. It is one of Europe’s most restrictive laws on pregnancy termination.
If enacted, the changes would allow pregnancies to be terminated up to the 12th week if doctors deem the pregnant woman’s physical or mental health to be at risk or if there is a “substantial risk that the fetus is suffering from a fatal fetal abnormality.”
The question on voting cards at 15 polling stations will be, “Should the Crimes (Amendment) Act 2019, that defines the circumstances which would allow abortion in Gibraltar, come into force?”
Results were expected after midnight.
About 80% of Gibraltarians are Catholic, and the Bishop of Gibraltar has spoken out against the proposed changes.
The Gibraltar Pro-Life Movement has run a “Save Babies, Vote No” campaign. It argues that in practice the legal change amounts to introducing abortion on demand, because the mental health proviso can be misused.
Political parties have united behind a ‘yes’ vote. The leaders of the three main parties, including Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo who leads the government, have urged voters to back the change.
The referendum was postponed from March last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.