The Abortion Reform Bill 2018 will have its first reading in the Legislative Council on Tuesday 22 May. It’s Item 3 on the order paper – the sitting starts at 10.30am in Legislative Chamber – but it’s likely that any debate will take place at the second reading on a date to be confirmed.
You might remember that Bill Henderson MLC, who is introducing the Bill in the Legislative Council, made a statement at the last sitting on 8 May explaining why it couldn’t have its first reading then. You can find his full statement here:
It’s worth remembering that the Legislative Council is a SCRUTINISING chamber. The elected members of the House of Keys debated the clauses of the Abortion Reform Bill over several sittings, voted on tabled amendments and the Bill as it is now presented to the Legislative Council is the one which was passed by 22 votes to 2 at the third reading in the House of Keys on 1 May 2017.
This is the final version of the Bill:
and these are the updated explantory notes supplied by Mr Henderson MLC to LegCo.
We agree with Mr Henderson MLC – it is important that before the Abortion Reform Bill becomes Law, it must be right. It really is ground-breaking legislation, which will put abortion services firmly at the centre of reproductive healthcare and which may become the standard for similar laws in other jurisdications.
With the rest of the British Isles, other countries in Europe and further afield all looking at the Isle of Man and the progress of the Abortion Reform Bill, it is incumbent on the Legislative Council and, in particular, the Attorney General to make sure that our new Law can be rigorously applied and, if necessary, defended.
This is particularly important when considering the provision of access/buffer zones which might include discussion about:
- the rights of those who are accessing abortions
- the rights of those who provide abortion services
- the rights of the ‘unborn child’
- the right of freedom of speech
- the right of freedom of expression.
All of these rights are the subject of much debate, and legislation, across the world – not least on our own doorstep with anti-choice protestors on the Island and similar protests outside clinics in England.
CALM is confident that these considerations will be discussed and debated at length during the three readings of the Abortion Reform Bill in the Legislative Council, and that ultimately the Isle of Man’s new Abortion Reform Law will be a workable piece of legislation.
Mr Henderson MLC’s other concern in his statement to LegCo on 8 May was about the definition of ‘health’.
All we can say is that this was subject to long debate and a number of (failed) amendments in the House of Keys and the definition in the Bill is that of the World Health Organisation:
“health” means a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity
This was the definition agreed by MHKs, our elected representatives, at the third reading on 1 May 2018 and we see no need for this to be debated again by members of the Legislative Council
BUT until the new law is passed – and we’re confident it will be – we know that women are still having to travel, at their own expense, to have abortions outside the Isle of Man healthcare system or buying safe but still illegal abortion medication online.
If you, or someone you know, is in this situation please contact our friends at the Abortion Support Network http://www.asn.org.uk for advice and help or the BPAS Bpas – British Pregnancy Advisory Service helpline for women from the Isle of Man (and Ireland) who have taken abortion pills bought online is 0800 077 6049