Gibraltar abortion referendum: Voters back bill legalizing abortion

Baby Feet Baby Feet. | Morgan via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

The people of Gibraltar voted in a referendum Thursday to approve a bill legalizing abortion.

The referendum vote took place June 24, after it was postponed from March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The measure was approved by 7,656 votes in favor and 4,520 against.

Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula with a population of around 32,000 people. Its northern border is with Spain, which asserts a claim to the territory.

More than 23,000 Gibraltarians were registered to vote, with postal and proxy votes permitted, as well as votes at the ballot box.

Abortion has been illegal and punishable by up to life imprisonment in Gibraltar, except where the mother’s life is at risk.

In 2019, the Gibraltar Parliament passed the Crimes (Amendment) Act 2019 with the intention of legalizing abortion up to 12 weeks if the woman’s mental or physical health is considered at risk or if she would face grave injury.

Abortion would also be permitted at any time if the child has a fatal fetal abnormality.

Voters were asked: “Should the Crimes (Amendment) Act 2019, that defines the circumstances which would allow abortion in Gibraltar, come into force?”

The Gibraltar Pro-Life Movement opposed the bill and ran the “Save Babies, Vote No” campaign ahead of the referendum.

Around 500 people attended the group’s March for Life on June 15.

Gibraltar has one Catholic diocese and an estimated 25,000 Catholics.

Churches in the Diocese of Gibraltar hosted holy hours and other prayer events for the intention of protecting unborn life before the vote.

Bishop Carmel Zammit of Gibraltar issued a pastoral letter on June 19 urging Gibraltarians to defend the right to life.

“The people of Gibraltar are being presented with a choice: To choose between life or death; to choose whether the most vulnerable in our society will continue to enjoy the present status of the right to life, or will be subject to a significant broadening of the grounds for their legal termination,” he wrote. 

“To vote ‘no’ is to emphatically defend the right to life as enshrined currently in Gibraltar’s Constitution.”

He continued: “Let us turn in prayer to Our Lady of Europe, our Patroness and Mother, and to St Joseph, her spouse, that they may protect us with their parental care.”  

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“May the Virgin Mary, who gave birth to Jesus, protect all mothers, all unborn babies, and enlighten all of us in our duty to show them love and support whilst protecting the right to life of the unborn.” 

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