The Chief Minister’s latest statement on abortion is an attempt to erect a smokescreen from his usual but ever shifting position. To say that an answer given during a TV interview by Elliott Phillips implies that the GSD is somehow in favour of abortion or that the GSD is avoiding the issue is his usual twist and spin. It also brazenly and deliberately misrepresents the GSD’s position
The GSD was the first political party to react on this issue at a time that the GSLP led by him were lagging behind for months. We said as far back as February that neither of the political parties had a mandate on this issue because it was not an electoral issue at the last election. In February we said that if the Government contemplated legislation our initial reaction was that there needed to be a referendum precisely because it was inappropriate for the parties in Parliament to decide this when there was no mandate to do so. It is – months later – still not clear what precisely the Government envisage – if anything.
In the Spring GSD Leader, Keith Azopardi was interviewed for a GBC programme organised by Jonathan Scott on abortion and explained the Party’s position. He also – on camera – was willing to express his own personal view on the issue although the latter was not screened by GBC.
Conversely Mr Picardo refused to do any interview for that programme preferring to shirk the opportunity to lead. He still has not said where he stands personally and sits on the fence on the issue. He is also now trying to distract from his own fence-sitting by placing the focus wrongly on the GSD. In a tweet this week Mr Picardo said that he was not supporting any position. He is openly cosying up to both pro-choice and pro-life because Mr Picardo thinks that he can be all things to all men.
Since that GBC programme last spring there have been three further developments. First the UK Supreme Court have issued a relevant judgment which needs to be taken into account, secondly the Government have said it would issue a Command Paper to amend the Crimes Act and thirdly the principal lobbying groups (pro- choiceandpro-life)havebeencreated. These have now both said they are not in favour of a referendum. That is not to say that the GSD now considers a referendum is inappropriate. But we are taking into account those views. There are – as would be expected on an issue like this – diverse views held by individuals both within the GSD and outside it.
We have said that we are meeting interested groups and will make a considered decision and a statement on the issue in due course. We shall do so but first it is also important to consider the intended legislation (if any) that the Government are contemplating – especially because as we have already said no political party has an electoral mandate on this issue at present. This will affect our view as to what is permissible at all at this stage.
It was Mr Picardo who announced that he would issue a command paper by the end of summer. He said he would produce this to consult on Government’s views and implied there should be legislation before the next election. He has not yet done so. Perhaps Mr Picardo should concentrate on what he said he would do. He now says that the command paper will come at the end of September/beginning of October.
In the meantime the GSD is not going to play Mr Picardo’s games on this issue. This is too important an issue. Gibraltar is tiring of his constant spin, misrepresentations and games. The GSD, as we have said before, is conducting its own meetings with relevant groups and its own internal consultation and discussion and will make a further statement when ready. There are many facets to this debate and questions to be assessed. That pace will not be dictated by the ever-shifting chameleonic Mr Picardo.
Mr Azopardi said: “The issue raises all manner of legal, ethical, human rights, religious and personal choice issues. There are rights issues to be balanced because there are several lives that are affected by choices in this area. Despite the current haranguing of the GSLP we consider that the issue of potential change to legislation needs to be considered carefully. The GSD made clear in mid-July that if what is eventually proposed by Government is in our view not appropriate or not in the public interest we would not support such changes.”