Overwhelming approval for modernising abortion law

STATES members overwhelming approved a modernisation of the abortion law, despite reservations from some deputies that the island did not need to be a ‘trailblazer’ on the issue.

Deputy Carl Meerveld passes by protesters outside the Royal Court. (Picture by Cassidy Jones, 29763554)
Deputy Carl Meerveld passes by protesters outside the Royal Court. (Picture by Cassidy Jones, 29763554)

After hours of debate, the legislation was approved by 27 votes to 11, meaning that abortion will no longer be treated as a potential crime, and the gestation time limit will double from 12 weeks to 24.

There were many attempts to guillotine the debate and go straight to the vote, and on the fourth attempt the debate was cut short, leaving some States members frustrated that they did not get a chance to speak.

Deputy Chris Blin was the first speaker of the morning.

He said he accepted the law required modernising, but thought that some elements in front of them were without justification.

‘Around 24 weeks an unborn child can feel, they have their own arms and legs and heart and brain and therefore they feel pain, if they are given just a few more weeks to live, then they would be able to live independently.’

Wrestling with his conscience was Deputy Steve Falla, who questioned why Guernsey should be a ground breaker and have legislation far more liberal than elsewhere.

‘What is the value of a life? I don’t feel comfortable with putting a value on a life, and while I can see that in some circumstances 12 weeks is not a workable timeframe, I just sense that 24 weeks is too late in the gestation process to prevent a life.

‘I don’t think Guernsey should be a trailblazer on such matters.’

Deputy Peter Roffey spoke to fully support the legislation, and he drew parallels between criminalising someone for self-aborting their foetus, to a few years ago when people who attempted suicide could still be prosecuted.

‘It is a point of madness frankly, this is a situation where 100% of our focus should be on help, understanding and assistance, not threatening people with the legal system.’

Deputy John Dyke asked if the debate could be deferred until Monday to allow four or five ‘crisp, specific’ amendments to be laid and discussed.

There was a sound of deputies puffing out their cheeks and the idea got little support.

After some long speeches, the vote was decisive to approve the law.

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