Gibraltar is “facing a life and death decision” and will need “all the courage and strength of Hercules” if it is going to keep its pro-life protections, Lord David Alton of Liverpool has said.
The prominent Catholic peer and pro-lifer has urged the people of Gibraltar to vote ‘No’ in a forthcoming referendum which asks whether abortion should be introduced to the British Overseas Territory. He said dong so would send a clear message that both the lives of the mother and her unborn baby matter.
The referendum, which takes place on 19th March, follows the Gibraltar Parliament passing the Crimes (Amendment) Act 2019 – which allows abortions in certain circumstances – by a vote of 10–7 on 12th July 2019. In December 2019, MPs approved the holding of a referendum on the legislation, also lowering the voting age for the referendum to 16.
The decision not to force through the abortion law, instead putting it to the public in a referendum, followed a successful campaign from the Gibraltar Pro-life Movement (GPLM), which saw over 6,000 people sign a petition calling for any change in law to recognise ‘the pre-born’s indisputable right to life’.
The ballot paper question was set as ‘Should the Crimes Amendment Act 2019, that defines the circumstances which would allow abortion in Gibraltar, come into force?’
The British Overseas Territory has one of the strongest pro-life laws in Europe; abortion is illegal under Section 16 of the 2011 Crime Act, which states that abortion in Gibraltar is punishable by life imprisonment, including for anyone assisting in the abortion.
Addressing huge crowds at the GPLM’s Rally for Life in a packed Casemates Square, Lord Alton outlined how nine million abortions had taken place in the UK since 1967 – over 600 a day.
“Gibraltar’s new law would effectively allows abortion on demand, as in the UK,” he said. “Science teaches us that life begins at fertilisation. And science has moved on dramatically since abortion was legalised.
“When the UK’s obsolete limits were being set, we didn’t know what was happening in the womb. We do now. This is a law which flies in the face of science and humanity. Today we know so much more about the undeniable humanity of the child in the womb.”
He also rejected claims that the UK Government could force abortion on Gibraltar if it is not voted through: “That is simply not true and would be deeply offensive for a territory which rightly boasts of having self-determination to be treated like a 19th century colony of the UK.
“Voters in the forthcoming referendum must not think that they are under duress from London – if, it is, then the Gibraltar government should say who in the UK is telling it to conform to a law and ethical code which is contested all over the world.
“Be clear, neither the UK Supreme Court nor its predecessors have ever had jurisdiction over Gibraltar and, neither the UK Supreme Court nor the European Court of Human Rights have ever acknowledged the right to abortion,” he added.
“By voting No, Gibraltar will be sending a clear signal that both lives matter – and that it will not be bullied into abandoning its values and ethics.”
“Globally, the tide is turning. Progressive countries are rising to the defence of the right to life; it would be a tragedy if Gibraltar abandoned its historic duty to be a bastion in defence of civilised values and the very right to life itself. On 19th March Gibraltar should vote ‘No’.”