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BPAS welcomes abortion law reform proposals in Guernsey

  • The proposals, due for debate in the States of Deliberation this week, are a vindication of the rights of women in Guernsey – treating abortion as a healthcare decision that should be made between a woman and her medical team
  • Abortion law in Guernsey is underpinned by legislation passed in Westminster in 1861 and carries the harshest penalty in the world for a woman ending her own pregnancy – life in prison
  • This debate follows recent reforms of abortion law in the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland where women are able to routinely access care up to 24 weeks’ gestation
  • BPAS believes there is no role for the criminal law when it comes to women ending their own pregnancies, and that abortion should be governed by medical law and regulation, not specific criminal laws
  • The proposals are also supported by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists which has said they “provide unique opportunity to establish a fit-for-purpose legal framework for abortion care”

BPAS has today welcomed the proposals of the Health and Social Care Committee in Guernsey to reform abortion law in the Bailiwick. These reforms recognise the right of women to end a pregnancy, and ensure that the best possible medical care can be provided without being restricted by the law. BPAS supports the proposals as put forward.

The existing law in Guernsey is underpinned by criminalisation of women and healthcare professionals that was first passed in Westminster in 1861, as well as a The Abortion (Guernsey) Law, 1997 which was based on the provisions of the British Abortion Act 1967. These provisions are out of date and harm the ability of doctors, nurses, and midwives to provide the best quality of care for women.

These proposals were brought forward after recent similar reforms of abortion law in the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland. Both of these legal regimes now allow abortion up to 24 weeks, and have removed women from the criminal law so that no women can be criminalised for ending her own pregnancy.

New provisions for a 24-week time limit and terminations on the grounds of severe or fatal foetal anomaly are also essential to ensure high quality care for women in the most difficult of circumstances. In many of these cases, women will still need to access care – but their only options are either to travel to Great Britain and pay for care, or to continue with a pregnancy where they may have received a devastating diagnosis of severe or fatal foetal abnormality.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has also written to the Committee of Health and Social Care in support of these proposals. Their submission said “The proposals set out by the Committee for Health & Social Care provide a unique opportunity to establish a fit-for-purpose legal framework for abortion care in Guernsey which supports best clinical practice both now and in the future.”

These proposals are a huge step forward for medical care and women’s rights in the Bailiwick, and BPAS urges Deputies to support them.

Rachael Clarke, Public Affairs and Advocacy Manager at BPAS, said:

“We are delighted to see the forward-looking proposals for abortion law reform in Guernsey. These proposals bring the law up to date and into line with the positive changes that have taken place over the last couple of years in the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland, and provide a framework where women can access care based on best medical practice.

“Legal abortion is a necessary part of women’s healthcare. One in three women will access an abortion over their lifetime – this healthcare is essential and deserves to be supported and governed by up to date laws and regulations. No woman should be forced to travel to access this care – and these proposals recognise that fact.“

ENDS

About BPAS

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) is a British reproductive healthcare charity that offers abortion care, contraception, STI testing, and pregnancy counselling to 100,000 women each year via our clinics in Great Britain. We also treat clients from the Channel Islands, Northern Ireland, and Ireland, particularly where their domestic laws prevent them accessing the care they need.

Notes to editors

For further information please contact 07985 351751 or rachael.clarke@bpas.org 

The full proposals from the Guernsey Committee for Health & Social Care are available here.

You can read BPAS’s full submission to the Committee for Health & Social Care here.