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20th December 2019, 18:40

A motion calling a referendum on the abortion law in March is passed by Parliament

Parliament has voted unanimously in favour of a motion calling a referendum in March on the law providing for abortion to be legal under certain circumstances. The motion extends the franchise to people aged 16 and over, and also regulates campaign funding to ensure what the Chief Minister referred to as "equality of arms".

The political parties set aside their differences on the issue of abortion itself to debate the mechanics of the upcoming referendum. The motion for a referendum on Gibraltar's abortion laws extends the franchise to those aged 16 and over who would otherwise be eligible to vote, although the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, said it was for the Select Committee on Parliamentary Reform to decide whether this should apply to future elections as well. The decision to lower the voting age in this case was supported by the GSD and Together Gibraltar, although Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi, said there should have been prior consultation.

The motion provides for up to £50,000 worth of taxpayer funding each for the official yes and no campaigns; the figure was queried by Together Gibraltar's Marlene Hassan Nahon, who said it was exorbitant.

An amendment was also proposed by Ms Hassan Nahon, stating that the total spend by the campaigns should also be capped at £50,000 each. The Leader of the Opposition said this could create logistical problems, as it needed statutory backing.

However, Ms Hassan Nahon's amendment received Government support, and was passed by majority, with the GSD abstaining.

The question on the ballot paper in will be: "should the Crimes Amendment Act 2019, that defines the circumstances which would allow abortion in Gibraltar, come into force?" The motion also sets out that the Referendum Administrator - Clerk to Parliament, Paul Martinez - should provide to voters a neutrally-worded document clarifying the relevant changes to the law. The referendum will be held on the 19th March. A simple majority of over 50 percent is needed to win.