Exciting things are going on on both sides of the Irish Sea. In Ireland the Referendum to remove the 8th amendment from the Constitution is to be held on 25 May. In Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council has passed a motion to decriminalise use of abortion pills. In London, Ealing Council has just announced a Public Space Protection Order is to come into effect around a clinic offering abortion services.
Here in the Isle of Man, on 24 April the debate in the House of Keys regarding the clauses of the Abortion Reform Bill 2018 will continue. The order paper isn’t out yet, but we already know that some MHKs are continuing their efforts to ‘redefine’ health – and remove any mention of social wellbeing – and to define ‘social grounds’ for abortions after 14 weeks.
CALM’s original ‘wish list’ for a new law included a list of possible social grounds – but we knew that this wouldn’t – couldn’t – cover every circumstance of anyone’s life.
When Dr Allinson MHK sent the draft Bill out for public consultation it included a list – but many people and professional organisations who responded said that this shouldn’t be in the finished law as it would restrict access to abortion services. So, after taking legal advice, he took it out of the Abortion Reform Bill which is now in front of the House of Keys. The clause refering to ‘social grounds’ for abortions in the second trimester is Clause 6.7 in the attached document.
It’s worth remembering that the Bill has now been debated in the House of Keys three times. An earlier amendment to redefine ‘health’ on 6 March failed by 5 votes to 18. In addition, the subject of social grounds has been discussed in every debate, and each time the reasons for NOT including a list have been made clear.
CALM has written to all MHKs asking them to vote against any amendments which restrict access to abortions, restrict choice. In our letter we said:
“Changing the wording of Clause 6.7 to define social grounds whether in a list or by a somewhat vague description does NOT mean abortion would be available ‘on demand’ as has been suggested, but that abortions would be safe and legal, just as adoption and parenthood are safe and legal. Abortion is just one of the options open to the woman, in discussion with her doctor and other healthcare professionals. There is no need to list a number of ‘acceptable’ social grounds, to re-write Clause 6(7) to make it vague, yet more restrictive, or, as has also been suggested, leave it up to ‘the Department’ to provide a list of social grounds. CALM asks you to vote against these amendments: trust women, trust their doctors.”
Although CALM knows how important it is to get this new law right we can’t, in all honesty, see how rehashing these same arguments over and over again is anything more than a cynical time-wasting attempt to delay progress.
The Isle of Man deserves better than this.