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1996: Guernsey votes to legalise abortion

Guernsey has voted to legalise abortion, overturning a ban which dates back to 1910.

As the law currently stands, women found guilty of having an abortion on the Channel Island faces life imprisonment.

But in practice, women who want a termination travel to the mainland for the operation.

This situation led the island's parliament to vote overwhelmingly to bring its laws up to date.

It has agreed in principle to allow abortions up to 12 weeks into pregnancy if a woman has the consent of two doctors.

The vote follows months of campaigning by "pro-choice" activists and two days of debate by local politicians.

The issue has divided the island's population, and pro-life groups have vowed to continue to fight the decision.


"We're not going to force women to go to the mainland to solve their problems"

Niall McCathie, Guernsey parliament

The vote will not become law before it is ratified in London, a process which could take as long as two years.

Anti-abortion campaigner Dr Susan Wilson said: "I feel that in Guernsey today a death sentence has been passed on people who aren't able to defend themselves.

"The death sentence has carried away four million unborn human beings in the UK in the last 30 years."

But many young women on the island welcomed the move.

Up to 150 women travel to England in secret every year to have an abortion.

Niall McCathie, a representative in Guernsey's parliament said: "I'm pleased for the people of Guernsey, particularly the women of Guernsey, that we're going to keep the problem of abortion in Guernsey.

"We're not going to force women to go to the mainland to solve their problems" he said.

In Context
The World Health Organisation estimates 40-60 million abortions take place in the world each year.

Nearly 20 million of these are carried out in countries where the practice is illegal.

There are 54 countries in the world which allow abortion.

The majority of abortions take place within the first 13 weeks of pregnancy.


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