A Step Backwards For Women
Together Gibraltar is dismayed at the Government’s decision to put the upcoming abortion bill up for referendum on the 19th of March 2020. Issues of human rights, such as the right to bodily autonomy and healthcare should not be decided by a referendum. Human rights can never be up for negotiation. This is a case of Government being split on the issue and pandering to religious and conservative lobbies, perpetuating the patriarchal approach to issues surrounding female reproductive rights, and propagating the myth that women cannot be trusted to make wise and measured decisions when it comes to whether they want to take the immense, life-altering step of having a child.
It was already disappointing to see that Government had only been persuaded by legal requirements brought about by the UK Government, when they should have been focusing on the rights and health of Gibraltarians, as many citizens have rightly been fighting for. To put such a matter to referendum in order to appease their anti-choice supporters before an election is especially cynical.
How did we get here? For many years ordinary Gibraltarians have been fighting for our rights. Together Gibraltar initially asked for a referendum at the commencement of the public debate in response to politicians on both sides of this house, who hid behind a lack of mandate in order to avoid addressing the issue.
Suddenly, something changed. A case in the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom on the legality of the law on abortion in Northern Ireland conveniently provided the mandate, in a way that seemed aseptic and non-committal. We were in breach of Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, as well as our own constitution, and that was “intolerable”, to use the CM´s own words. Government was given a mandate driven by legal imperative.
What exactly has changed since then is unclear, other than the fact that the Government has been unable to agree on the issue, and is therefore incapable of taking a principled stance, despite the legal imperative they have themselves cited
It is also irresponsible to keep this divisive issue, that has been subject of intense debate and even acrimony, for 8 more months. Together Gibraltar has always been consistent and unwavering when it comes to our pro-choice ideals and women in Gibraltar should take note in the coming elections so we can implement a truly progressive agenda that doesn't put basic rights up for debate.