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Deputy Defends Abortion Law Delay Attempt

Deputy Carl Meerveld has written an open letter explaining why he has brought a delay motion to halt reforms to Guernsey's Abortion Law.

He says the combination of changes being put to the States for final approval 'will create an unacceptable moral, ethical, and legal deficit', which he says was not made clear during the original debate ,and which he found 'shocking' when he considered the implications.

They will allow women to to choose to have a termination up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.  The current limit is 12 weeks.

They will also decriminalise the act of a woman ending or attempting to end her pregnancy.

"Decriminalising self-abortion for the entire gestation period from inception until birth (0-40 weeks) means that a mother can deliberately abort a healthy 'survivable child' at any time right up to and during the contractions just before birth at full term. 

The 'survivable unborn child' has no protection under the law. There will be no legal sanction to levy against the mother for this action; it will be completely legal.

We must ask ourselves whether this is acceptable under our community's values, morals, and ethics. We also need to decide at what point we should protect the interests of the completely innocent unborn child. I would argue this should be when the fetus becomes sufficiently developed to be a 'survivable child' capable of being born and growing as a member of our community."

He says other jurisdictions have decriminalised abortion only up to their elective abortion limit.

The deputy is also against the change from 12 to 24 weeks because he says 'we we will be sanctioning babies with up to a 60% chance of surviving being aborted', quoting survival rates from the the British Association of Perinatal Medicine.

Deputy Meervald says his colleagues need to ask themselves a number of questions, including whether the States decision of 2020 to reform the Abortion law in this way was the correct one.

He says a vote in favour of sursis is not to ' kick the can down the road', but to make 'the right decisions on a matter that literally involves life and death.'

The potential challenge to abortion reforms clearing the final hurdle has been met with frustration by many women.

A rally has been organised to take place outside the Royal Court next Wednesday (14 July) to lobby politicians to move forward with the agreed changes.

The Vice-President of Health and Social Care, Deputy Tina Bury says the committee is disappointed by the sursis motion.

She says the proposals that were adopted last summer were the result of thorough review and consultation. 

"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.

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."

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