Under reforms now agreed by the government of Guernsey, abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy will become legal, extending the existing 12-week time limit, and removing the 24-week limit in cases of significant fetal abnormality. These amendments to the 1997 abortion law were agreed in principle in June 2020 and have now been given final approval by 27 votes to 11, with one abstention. No date for implementation has been set. Before the bill becomes law it must be sent to the Privy Council for Royal Assent.
These reforms will bring Guernsey’s law both more in line with Britain’s but also even better, and making the two-tiered system Guernsey had – in which those who could pay to travel for an abortion after 12 weeks to the British mainland had that choice – while those who could not pay did not. Other changes include:
- allowing one doctor to approve an abortion, rather than the two previously required (UK still requires two).
- allowing medical abortions to take place at home, rather than in hospital, with medication provided by nurses and midwives (only temporarily allowed in Britain).
- removing criminal sanctions if a woman ends, or attempts to end, her own pregnancy (clauses in the UK’s 1861 Offences against the Person Act, which still apply in UK, impose these sanctions).
Medical professionals who are conscientious objectors must refer a woman to a different provider and cannot refuse to carry out a termination necessary to save the life or prevent serious harm to the physical or mental health of woman.
The vice president of the Committee for Health and Social Care said the proposals had followed “months of research and consultation”, which had been conducted in a “robust and thorough manner”. She said: “It is based on the latest scientific evidence and comes with the overwhelming backing of the medical profession.”
SOURCES: BBC.com, 15 July 2021 ; Infographic, Guernsey Bailiwick Express, 4 March 2020 ; ITV.com PHOTO ITV Channel TV, 9 July 2021