The most taboo issue to hit Gibraltar in recent times has been that of legalising abortion. Let’s Talk Real (IG @letstalkrealgib) chatted with some of the girls from the No More Shame charity, who are leading the Gibraltar for YES campaign; Daniel Sisarello from the Secular Humanist Society, a pro-choice organisation; and with Rachael Jackson, who oversees the In Her Shoes Gibraltar group (part of a wider European one), an anonymous social media platform where those who have had abortions can share their stories.
After the cancellation of the abortion referendum last March, due to the Covid lockdown, a new date of 24 June is now set, to enact, or not, the amendment to the Crimes Act, enabling abortions in Gibraltar up to 12 weeks’ pregnancy. The Bill is already written and passed in Parliament, all it requires is a majority vote from our community to set the process in motion.
No More Shame stands for the advancement of sexual health education and reproductive rights.
And where did it all start? The legalisation of abortion in Ireland inspired choice and women’s groups in Gibraltar to draw parallels with the plight of their women travelling abroad in shame to seek abortions… and so the debate in Gibraltar started on social media and then moved into the wider community. This in turn empowered women who’d had abortions to speak out and share their experiences. The charity No More Shame (NMS) formed off the back of this and led the campaign for YES in the run-up to the abortion referendum, untill just shy of a week when it was cancelled.
NMS stands broadly for the advancement of sexual health education and reproductive rights, the legalisation of abortion being one of the issues the charity has been fighting for. To this end, NMS campaigns for abortion locally and safely within the GHA, as part of the reproductive healthcare service. This also involves working on an informed, evidence-based abortion service, support for the GHA’s Health Promotion team and Well Person Unit through promoting safe sex and use of contraception, which NMS believes should be free (check out IG Let’s Talk Real’s chat with Rachael Jackson on sexual health). Keeping the conversation real, honest and open is important when educating our young adults on consent, sexual identity, respectful relationships and responsible sexual activity.
With the campaigning starting again in earnest, Gibraltar for YES feels it imperative the debate is led by the overwhelming evidence and support from international humanitarian organisations and professional bodies in the fields of medicine and science that endorse a woman’s right to bodily autonomy and her reproductive right to determine when and if she has children. Gibraltar at this point remains one of the last territories in Europe where this is not the case, along with Malta and Poland.
This is a situation that is no longer sustainable.
For several decades Gibraltar women have been accessing terminations in Spain, the UK and in Morocco. Women travelling for such terminations have had no access to pre or post counselling, with the added stress of being in unfamiliar surroundings, paying for a costly procedure whilst having to lie to family, friends and work colleagues/employers. Some of these women and girls have been victims of domestic abuse, some victims of rape, some experiencing extremely difficult periods in their lives and some will have felt it was just not the right time. All of them would have felt very alone, isolated and needing support. Additionally, most of them felt guilt and shame as a result of the stigma that has surrounded abortion in Gibraltar. This is a situation that is no longer sustainable.
Gibraltar for YES are confident in the knowledge that in the same way we were able to recognise the inequality and unjust situation which surrounded same sex marriage and the age of consent for the LGBTQ community, that we will also come through for women who have been marginalised because of their choices. Burying our heads in the sand and pretending this has not been happening, and will stop happening, is no longer a choice for us as a community.
The proposed reform we will vote for on 24 June is important to us as a community and its success or failure will be a result by which we will be measured and judged as a mature and compassionate community. Abortion decisions are never taken lightly and rather than condemnation and the risk of prosecution, what our women in these very difficult situations need is support and understanding.
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