Gibraltar votes to ease strict abortion law

Gibraltar votes to ease strict abortion law
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Gibraltar on Thursday voted to ease its strict anti-abortion laws in a new referendum.

The territory is known for having some of the toughest abortion laws in Europe. Breaching the laws previously carried the penalty of life in prison, according to the BBC.

Gibraltar voters supported the move to allow women in the territory to get abortions if their mental health is at risk of if the fetus will have physical defects that would be fatal. Nearly 62 percent of voters were in favor of the change and about 36 percent voted against it, the news outlet noted.

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Though obtaining an abortion in Gibraltar is punishable by life in prison, no one has reportedly been convicted of it in modern times.

BBC reported that women have previously traveled to Spain or Britain to get abortions because the procedure is legal there.

Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, who also supported the change to the abortion law, told the news outlet that it is expected to be implemented within 28 days.

Picardo also said that the government plans to provide support and counseling services "to ensure that any woman who calls at the doors of the Gibraltar Health Authority believing that she needs an abortion will have the support that she needs."

The new law caused deep divisions among Gibraltar citizens, with some anti-abortion campaigners arguing that the law's wording could influence people to think that abortion would be allowed beyond 12 weeks, while campaigners who were in favor of voting "Yes" to the measure celebrated their victory.

"Today Gibraltar voted yes — yes for human rights, yes for women and girls, yes for trusting doctors and healthcare professionals, yes for choice, yes for compassion and empathy," Isobel Ellu, a "Yes" campaigner, told BBC.