Dark day for Guernsey
WEDNESDAY 24 June 2020 will go down in history as one of Guernsey’s darkest days.
Legal protection has been stripped from the weakest and most vulnerable members of our community; our unborn children.
Abortion was decriminalised on that day and it is important for us all to understand exactly what has happened. Unborn children in Guernsey are no longer considered worthy of legal protection from the criminal law. This is a protection given to every other citizen.
Now that abortion is not governed by the criminal law, how will the perpetrators of actions against a woman designed to kill her unborn child be punished? There is a well-established link between domestic violence and abortion. Decriminalising abortion effectively protects the perpetrator; now an abusive man can get away with coercing a woman into an abortion with little fear of any consequences.
Arguments that women were suffering under the previous law were unfounded. There is no evidence that criminal sanctions stopped women from accessing abortion. There is no evidence that women could not seek emergency care because of criminal sanctions.
Abortion is the taking of a human life. Decriminalising abortion on Guernsey means we are now sending a message to our people that abortion is no longer a grave issue. In other words, unborn children on Guernsey do not matter.
It is not surprising that for something as serious as ending the life of a developing human being, there should be a two-doctor rule. We have swept aside that rule. Again, we are exposing women to risk. Many people seek a second opinion about serious health treatment issues because they know that a single doctor’s judgements are not perfect, or necessarily the best evidence-based practice. The two-doctor rule minimises coercion and rash decision-making and protects the doctor and the woman.
Among the most tragic measures passed on 24 June was aborting babies with severe disabilities up to birth. This is saying to all people with disabilities: ‘Your life does not have the same worth as someone without a disability’.
Research shows that if a woman is motivated to have an abortion because of foetal disability, her risk of psychological harm is higher than if motivated by other reasons, like not being able to cope or fear of jeopardising her future (White-Van Mourik MCA, Connor JM and Ferguson-Smith MA, 1992, The psychosocial sequelae of a second-trimester termination of pregnancy for fetal abnormality, Prenatal Diagnosis, 12: 189-204).
The new abortion measures are letting women down and telling the world that Guernsey does not care about disabled people.
Our deputies have voted to govern abortion by a medical regulatory framework instead of the criminal law. Doctors can regulate what other doctors do. They cannot regulate unscrupulous purveyors of abortion pills. By taking the governance of abortion out of the criminal law, we are opening up the Pandora’s box of DIY abortions.
Abortion is not the same as any other medical procedure. It has been the subject of intense human scrutiny for millennia by philosophers, theologians, ethicists, medical professionals, and intelligent lay people alike. Even those who may rationalise abortion in some way must honestly acknowledge the gravity of the issue and its unique status that distinguishes it from other medical procedures. To equate abortion with a medical procedure is as scientifically inaccurate as it is philosophically vacuous.
Guernsey took a regressive step on 24 June 2020. Now is the time for the pro-life community on the island to make sure that women facing an unplanned pregnancy get the support they need. And that all women suffering after an abortion know where they can get true care and compassion.
Editor’s footnote: HSC declined to comment.