Gibraltar to vote on abortion proposals that would loosen its strict laws

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By Mark Armstrong  with AFP, AP
A woman votes in Gibraltar's abortion referendum
A woman votes in Gibraltar's abortion referendum   -  Copyright  AFP

Voters in Gibraltar are holding a referendum to decide whether to loosen the British territory's strict abortion laws.

At present, termination of a pregnancy is treated as "child destruction" and carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

The proposed changes would allow abortion up to the 12th week if doctors deem the pregnant woman’s physical or mental health to be at risk, or if there is a substantial risk of a fatal foetal abnormality.

"We need to participate in the vote," said one man. "Voting is the most precious thing we have. And it's important that people, with whatever opinion they hold, it's important that they actually face it and say 'this is what I am, this is what I believe in,' whichever side of the question you come to."

Gibraltar is predominantly Catholic and the Pro-Life Movement has campaigned for a 'no' vote. But the three main political parties have urged voters to back the changes. Results were expected late Thursday night.

At present, women wanting to have an abortion have to travel to Spain or to Britain to undergo the procedure.

The referendum was postponed from March last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In neighbouring Spain, abortion is permitted upon demand up to the 14th week of pregnancy.