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Gibraltar to hold referendum on anti-abortion laws

Gibraltar is a small peninsula attached to Spain that is a British territory home to around 30,000 people
Gibraltar is a small peninsula attached to Spain that is a British territory home to around 30,000 people AFP/File
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Gibraltar (AFP)

Gibraltar said Thursday it will hold a referendum next year on whether to ease the tiny British territory's laws against abortion, which are among the harshest in the world.

Abortion is currently punishable in Gibraltar, a small peninsula attached to Spain that is home to around 30,000 people, with life imprisonment although it has not been applied in modern times.

The proposed changes to the law which will be put to a referendum on March 19, 2020 would allow abortion in cases where a woman's mental or physical health are at risk -- such as in cases of rape or incest -- and fatal foetal anomaly.

Abortion would remain illegal in all cases after the twelth week of pregnancy and doctors could refuse to carry out the procedure if they morally object to it.

The government of Gibraltar said it had decided to reform the law after Britain's Supreme Court in June 2018 ruled that Northern Ireland's abortion laws, which are almost identical to Gibraltar's, were incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

"Given the passionate and opposite held views on the morality of this subject, the government is of the view that it can only proceed by posing the question in a referendum," it said in a statement.

A 2018 survey by the Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) showed that 77 of residents of the territory would support legalisation in certain circumstances -- such as in cases of rape or to protect a pregnant woman's life.

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