Unite the Union has joined in the current abortion debate, saying it will back the pro-choice campaign in a “positive and inclusive” way in Gibraltar.
Siobhan Endean, Unite UK’s national officer for equality, is currently on the Rock to discuss the union’s stance and will meet with Unite members as well as other unions, civil rights groups and government officials.
The main aim of their proposals is to decriminalise abortions in Gibraltar and ensure women are offered counselling and terminations at different stages of a pregnancy.
Ms Endean said: “It is really important that for women who are faced with perhaps the most difficult decision of their lives, the whole issue of abortion is taken out of the criminal system.”
“What needs to be put in place is proper support for women. There needs to be a framework of health provision, and a decision to terminate a pregnancy, which is never an easy one, should be a decision between a woman and her doctor.”
“What needs to be in place is a service where there is confidential support for them and that they get the counselling that they need, that they understand that if they go to their doctor they can talk about some of the issues and be clear with their doctor without the concern that they will end up in the criminal system.”
Ms Endean says this also supports medical professionals and doctors who will now be able to answer patients’ questions and concerns on an unwanted pregnancy without “fear of being caught up in the legal system”.
“Whatever your individual feelings and beliefs are, this is a decision for women,” she said.
“We respect that there is a difference of opinion among people, and people have very strongly-held beliefs on this issue, but what is needed now is legal change to make sure that women have that individual right to make the choice for themselves.”
When asked how the union may deal with any antipathy from members who support the pro-life side of the abortion debate, Ms Endean said: “It’s really important that when we have this debate, we have it in a way which is positive and inclusive, and people feel that their views are respected.”
“The pro-choice campaign respects that people have their individual views, and if you respect other people’s views, you would respect the right or the decision of a woman, if that’s what she chooses to do.”
“And that is really why our campaign is pro-choice, it’s about making sure that everyone’s views are respected and a woman’s views are respected.”
“We understand that there is going to be a division in people’s views and what matters is how this campaign and legislative change is carried out in a way that will ensure that there is a positive discussion, there isn’t antipathy and division created by the debate, but that people feel like their views are heard.”
Unite representatives and Ms Endean met with the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo on Monday, and told him they will be building the pro-choice campaign across Gibraltar.
“It’s really important he hears the experiences our members have, in terms of working with the health service and those who have faced unwanted pregnancies,” Ms Endean said.
“What he needs to do is legislate to ensure that everyone has their civil human rights in Gibraltar and listens to them.”
Some of the proposals put forward by Unite’s pro-choice campaign includes giving women the full facts of their pregnancy, including parenting, adoption or termination.
With regards to terminations, the pro-choice campaign’s proposals include women being able to request a termination up to 12 weeks in pregnancy; between 12 and 24 weeks if there are serious physical or mental health concerns for the mother or the baby; or over 24 weeks if the woman’s life is in danger and a full medical consultation has taken place.