House of Keys to debate Abortion Reform Bill on Tuesday

The Isle of Man’s House of Keys is to debate the final amendments to the Abortion Reform Bill 2018 on Tuesday 30 October.

Key points in this Bill include:

  • Decriminalisation of abortion in the Isle of Man, the first jurisdication in the British Isles to do this.
  • Provision of abortion on request, up to 14 weeks
  • Legislating that there can be ‘social grounds’ for abortion, up to 24 weeks
  • Legislating that abortions will only require the signature of one doctor or relevant professional (unlike elsewhere in the British Isles, where for abortions to be legal under the 1967 Abortion Act, there must be two signatures).
  • Independent,non-directional pre- and post-abortion counselling to be available to anyone who requests it, at any point.
  • Legislation for access/buffer zones to be set up around any facility offering abortion services – again, a first for the British Isles.
  • Allowance for conscientious objection, but objectors must register this with the DHSC and signpost anyone seeking an abortion to another healthcare professional.

If you’ve been following the Campaign for Abortion Law Modernisation since the beginning you’ll know that this is what we’ve been campaigning for – and we’re delighted that we are nearly there, and in particular that women will be able to get advice and abortion services locally, and won’t need to travel to England or elsewhere, at their own expense – away from home, and outside the care provided by their GP or other health professionals.  Although it is possible that some people will prefer to access clinics across, this will be their choice, not a ‘choice’ imposed on them because there is no other option.

Once enacted, the Abortion Reform Law 2018 will make abortions in the Isle of Man safe, legal and local – exactly what we’ve been campaigning for.

The debate on Tuesday will be the final stage of the Abortion Reform Bill though the two chambers, the House of Keys and the Legislative Council, and once passed will be sent to a sitting of the whole Court of Tynwald for signing (probably on 20-22 November) before being sent for Royal Assent – the final piece of the legislative process.

But this is not the end of our work.  Even once the new law receives Royal Assent, it won’t be enacted until the Department of Health and Social Care is sure that it can offer abortion services as laid out in what will then be the Abortion Reform Law 2018.  We understand that the Minister and Department are working hard to make sure this happens sooner rather than later – and CALM supporters can rest assured that we will be keeping a close eye on this.

In the meantime, what will happen tomorrow?

Tuesday’s debate will include the amendments agreed by the Legislative Council in June and three NEW amendments introduced by Chris Robertshaw MHK and Howard Quayle MHK.

All the amendments (including those agreed by LegCo) are included on pages 5-11 of the order paper here:

http://www.tynwald.org.im/business/opqp/opqp/2018-PP-0142.pdf

The line numbers referred to in those amendments are in the Bill as introduced to  the Legislative Council in June which is here:

http://www.tynwald.org.im/business/bills/Bills/Abortion_Reform_Bill_2018_as_amended_by_KEYS.PDF

Our understanding of the process tomorrow is that Dr Alex Allinson MHK will move that the amendments from LegCo be accepted by the House of Keys (seconded by Clare Bettison MHK).  Then each new amendment will be introduced by its mover (Mr Robertshaw MHK and Mr Quayle MHK) and be seconded by another member.

The House will then debate the whole package of amendments and amendments to amendments!

At the end of the debate, following summing up by Mr Quayle, Mr Robertshaw and finally Dr Allinson, the House of Keys will vote on:

  1. Amendment to Council Amendment 3 (Mr Robertshaw)
  2. Amendment to Council Amendment 8 (Mr Robertshaw)
  3. Amendment to Council Amendment 55 (Mr Quayle)
  4. The whole motion as amended.

And then, finally, after each amendment has been voted on, the House of Keys will vote the whole Bill through.

We have no idea how long this will all take but if you want to see democracy in action, the sitting begins at 10am at the Legislative buildings – the Wedding Cake – in Bucks Road, Douglas.  Seating in the public gallery is limited, so we suggest you try to get there early!

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