16 July 2021
BPAS has today welcomed a vote by the States of Deliberation in Guernsey to reform abortion law in the Bailiwick. Deputies voted 27-11 on Thursday 15th July 2021 in favour of the proposals brought forward by the Health and Social Care Committee in Guernsey. These reforms recognise the right of women to end a pregnancy and ensure that the best possible medical care can be provided. BPAS has supported these changes from the beginning.
The change in law removes women from the criminal law throughout pregnancy, increases the gestational limit to 24 weeks for routine care, and removes the time limit for terminations on the grounds of serious foetal anomaly. It also removes the requirement for abortions to take place in the local hospital, abolishes the requirement for two doctors’ signatures before an abortion is permitted, and enables nurses and midwives to provide abortion services.
The current 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 These provisions have been recognised by Deputies as being out of date and harming the ability of doctors, nurses, and midwives to provide the best quality of care for women.
This change has come soon after Gibraltar – another British Overseas Territory – voted decisively in a referendum this June to legalise abortion for the first time. There have also been recent similar reforms of abortion law in the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland – both of which now allow abortion up to 24 weeks and have removed women from the criminal law.
Rachael Clarke, Head of Public Affairs and Policy at BPAS, said:
“This law is a huge step forward for medical care and women’s rights in the Bailiwick, and a credit to the Health and Social Care Committee which has worked so hard to develop this law. Guernsey should be proud to join other jurisdictions like Gibraltar, the Isle of Man, and Northern Ireland in seeking to provide a legal framework where women can access care based on best medical practice.
“Safe, 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 – for the first time this new law recognises that fact.”
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BPAS is a charity which sees almost 100,000 women a year for reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception, at clinics across the UK. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice. BPAS also runs the Centre for Reproductive Research and Communication, which seeks to develop and deliver a research agenda that furthers women’s access to evidence-based reproductive healthcare, driven by an understanding of women’s perspectives and needs. You can find out more here.
BPAS intends to launch a not-for-profit fertility service in Spring 2021, to provide ethical, evidence based, person-centred care that supports patients. We intend to only charge what it costs to provide a safe, high-quality, and accessible service to patients who may be unable to access NHS funded care.