Two Guernsey Deputies, reported as Carl Meerveld and Liam McKenna have tabled a last minute delay, known as a ‘sursis’, asking for more research before a vote is taken to changing the current abortion law.
As a result, the Guernsey Women’s Collective is organising a protest which will take place outside the Royal Court before the States sitting on 14th July.
In June 2020, Guernsey’s Committee for Health & Social Care (HSC) presented recommendations to the States of Deliberation to amend the current law (Abortion (Guernsey) Law, 1997).
The proposals were formulated using the guiding principles of the ‘partnership of purpose’ and following a review of abortion legislation in the Republic of Ireland and British jurisdictions, the most robust scientific evidence and consultations with health professionals. Public engagement was undertaken and found the majority of responses to be supportive of the Committee’s recommendations.
The Committee’s proposals were based on the premise that abortions in the Bailiwick should protect and promote the safety of those seeking them, and that the law should provide clarity and certainty for the medical profession by providing safe, well-regulated and equitable abortion services including:
- Removing the need for two medical practitioners to certify an abortion
- Increasing Guernsey’s gestational limits in line with those in England.
- Removing criminal sanctions relating to women in respect of ending, or attempting to end, her own pregnancy
- Allowing early medical abortion procedures to be completed at the woman’s home.
The review of the legislation also considered the right of a health professional to conscientiously object and opt out of abortion care because of personal beliefs. The right of conscientious objection still applies in the proposed legislation and includes a duty to refer a patient on to an equivalent practitioner without such an objection. This is in step with professional guidelines set by the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing, the Nursing and Midwifery Council and the General Medical Council.
Deputy Tina Bury, Vice-President of the Committee for Health & Social Care said: “Despite not being a member of the Assembly last political term, I am acutely aware of the significant professional and public consultation that went into developing the proposals to amend the 1997 Abortion Law.
“It is disappointing that a Sursis Motive has been laid to review the work undertaken to modernise the Bailiwick’s abortion legislation. Further research and consultation will yield the same recommendations due to how recently the research and consultation was carried out. In addition, all this does is push this issue further down the road and, in the meantime, the Bailiwick fails to provide fair access to care that meets the needs of the service user.”
In parallel with these proposals, HSC has worked with colleagues on the Committee for Employment and Social Security to include free contraceptives for under 21s in Guernsey and Alderney since 2018 to support young people to choose a method of contraception that is suitable for them and, therefore, reduce the likelihood of an unwanted pregnancy.
Deputy Bury said: ‘This is an extremely emotive subject and one which should be debated respectfully. No one should assume that a person seeking an abortion does so lightly. These decisions live with that individual for the rest of their lives. To know that your choices are limited due to an outdated piece of legislation is unacceptable in 2021. At the heart of the proposals debated in 2020 was the provision of safe and equitable services. The current law does not enable this to happen.’
Click here for further details of the proposals, a summary of the public feedback from 2021, along with three short films explaining why the review of the legislation is needed.