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Guernsey to introduce disability-selective abortion up to birth

Guernsey politicians have voted in favour of an extreme abortion law introducing disability-selective abortion right up to birth for conditions such as cleft lip, club foot and Down’s syndrome. 

Yesterday, members of the States of Guernsey voted 23 to 13, with one abstainee, to remove the current 24-week time limit protecting babies with disabilities and allow abortion up to birth. 

Protections for babies without a disability will also be weakened with abortions available up to 24 weeks, up from 12 weeks. 

Along with raising abortion time limits, a raft of other extreme measures were also passed including a motion stating that only one doctor will need to sign off on an abortion. 

In addition, the requirement that abortions may only take place in a medical setting will be removed, allowing for ‘DIY’ home abortions with nurses and midwives able to sign off on such terminations.

Healthcare professionals who conscientiously object to abortions will also be expected to ‘make a referral without delay to another health practitioner without such objection’.

The proposals will now be drafted into law before returning to the States of Guernsey for final approval. 

Concerns over the allowing disability-selective abortion up to birth were raised in submissions made to the Health & Social Care committee with one person saying: “I am astonished that there hasn’t been any consideration for the disabled community.” 

Another said: “To allow late term abortion in cases of disability also sends a worrying message to those in our community who live with disability.”

According to official figures, 113 abortions were performed in Guernsey in 2018, with a further three involving Guernsey residents performed in England and Wales.

In a passionate speech against the proposals, Deputy Richard Graham said the changes went too far and questioned Guernsey’s enthusiasm to look at the UK law. 

He said: “I regret that Health & Social Care have identified the UK as the gold standard to be followed, instead I would urge them to look to those countries that have low abortion rates, and seek to learn lessons from them, they are no less civilised, no less compassionate than we are, and they strike me as a far better abortion role model than the UK.”

A spokesperson for Catherine Robinson said: “The extreme abortion proposals that have been approved in Guernsey are named ‘Modernisation of the Abortion (Guernsey) Law’, but there is nothing modern about this law.

“These proposals will ignore modern equality legislation and discriminate against babies and people with disabilities. People such as Heidi Crowter and Lord Shinkwin who have expressed that such laws make them ‘want to cry’ and tell them ‘they are better off dead’.

“The proposals will also allow the abortions of non-disabled babies up to 24 weeks, despite modern science leading to an increased survival rate for premature babies prompting new guidance allowing doctors to try to save babies born as early as 22 weeks into a pregnancy.

“What would be truly modern of the Government in Guernsey, and other Governments around the world, would be to introduce new laws that show that both lives matter and that every life is precious and of value.”

Dear reader,

You may be surprised to learn that our 24-week abortion time limit is out of line with the majority of European Union countries, where the most common time limit for abortion on demand or on broad social grounds is 12 weeks gestation.

The latest guidance from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine enables doctors to intervene to save premature babies from 22 weeks. The latest research indicates that a significant number of babies born at 22 weeks gestation can survive outside the womb, and this number increases with proactive perinatal care.

This leaves a real contradiction in British law. In one room of a hospital, doctors could be working to save a baby born alive at 23 weeks whilst, in another room of that same hospital, a doctor could perform an abortion that would end the life of a baby at the same age.

The majority of the British population support reducing the time limit. Polling has shown that 70% of British women favour a reduction in the time limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks or below.

Please click the button below to sign the petition to the Prime Minister, asking him to do everything in his power to reduce the abortion time limit.