The group No More Shame (NMS) is inviting the public to join them on a march this Saturday, “for the women who have been silenced and shamed for far too long over having had abortions.”
The march starts at 11am from Casemates and ends at No 6 Convent Place.
A statement from the group explained that it “marches for choice; for the right of women to have autonomy over their bodies within the parameters of scientific knowledge and the law, for legal abortions to cater for the needs of women in a modern and civil Gibraltar society.”
The group has welcomed the Gibraltar Government’s issuing of a Command Paper on abortion, describing it as a step towards decriminalising and de-stigmatising abortion.
It also applauded the Government for doing so, even without it having been an electoral mandate.
However, NMS believes the proposed legislation does not go far enough.
“NMS was created on the premise that abortion is a healthcare right. To this end, we advocate for safe abortions within a proper healthcare setting with the appropriate evidence-based medicine and support,” said a statement from the group.
“Because the GHA is modelled on the NHS (doctors are GMC-registered and health professionals adhere to UK governing bodies’ codes of practice), we therefore feel it imperative that the GHA, as the body regulating and delivering abortion services, uses evidence-based medicine as the foundation for legislating and delivering these services, like the NHS,” it adds.
The group said it is no longer a debate on the merits of whether abortion should be legalised, but how the service should be provided, based on evidence-based medicine.
“The whole basis for the timeframe in which an abortion can take place is based on the medical evidence-based notion of viability.This defines the minimum age at which the foetus can survive outside of its mother’s womb, albeit with medical support,” said the statement.
This figure currently stands at 24 weeks, set by the UK Abortion Act over 50 years ago in 1967. NMS said it agrees with the Government that this figure may be overtaken by scientific advances and that it can be lowered once the clinical evidence is there.
“NMS recommends a higher limit than 14 weeks to be enshrined in law to accommodate for circumstances relating to fatal or severe foetal abnormalities which are not diagnosable till around 20 weeks in the pregnancy, and this is supported by medical evidence,” read the statement.
“This can impact heavily on a woman’s physical and mental health and her decision, taken in conjunction with her doctor, to continue with the pregnancy,” it adds.
The group added that it hopes that processes are put in place to facilitate an abortion at the earliest possible opportunity, but stressed that Gibraltar’s abortion law needs to be modern and enlightened to cover for all eventualities up to when evidence-based viability exists.
“No woman would want to face prosecution due to unforeseen changes in her physical or mental health that necessitates an abortion within non-specified, grey areas of timeframes or without a modern-day scientific definition of viability,” said the group.
NMS, in its full response to Government on its Command Paper, recommends an upper limit of 24 weeks following the UK and links 25 clinical documents for consultation. It also said it is happy to continue working with the Government “to provide women in Gibraltar with a compassionate, professional, evidence-based medical service and the removal of stigma and shame from women requiring these services.”
NMS will publish a summary of its recommendations on the Command Paper to the Government, after it has submitted its proposal to the inter-ministerial working group on abortion.
It also invites other interested parties to follow suit and share with the general public their recommendations on the Command Paper.
Pic by Christian Ferrary