We understand that the Abortion Reform Bill is awaiting Royal Assent, and this should be forthcoming soon(ish) but we’re going to have to wait until January to find out. The January sitting of Tynwald will be held from Tuesday 15th to Thursday 17th and we hope we’ll be able to bring you good news then.
BUT as we’ve said all along, it won’t be until the Bill (or Law as it will be) is enacted that we can expect a fully functioning abortion service here, and this won’t be until an Appointed Day Order is approved by the Council of Ministers. Understandably, the DHSC will need to be sure that everyone responsible for the service is advised and knows the procedures – GPs, Midwives, Family Planning, Counselling etc. And, of course, that anyone wishing to register a conscientious objection has had the chance to do so.
So, we wait ….
And in the meantime, there is some good news: for the first time the Manx Telecom phone book (for 2019) includes the telephone number for the only LOCAL non-directive independent abortion counselling service, which is run by the Dept of Health and Social Care (01624 642540). It also includes the BPAS helpline numbers and the Abortion Support Network website www.asn.org.uk – we know that even once the new law is enacted, these services might be necessary. All these contacts can be found on page 36 of the new phone book, in the ‘useful numbers’ section.
Meanwhile, across the Irish Sea, the Irish government is working hard to make sure that abortion law there is reformed in the spirit of the referendum earlier this year, which repealed the 8th amendment, which put the life of the foetus above that of its mother.
The new Irish Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill, is going through the final stages, in the hope that it will be enacted on 1 January 2019, but we already know that unlike in the Isle of Man, it won’t decriminalise abortion in Ireland. If you’d like to know more you can follow @lawyers4choice on twitter – they’ve done an extraordinary job live tweeting each stage in the debates. Alternatively check their website www.lawyers4choice.ie
Religion, particularly the influence of the Roman Catholic church, has always been a big part of Irish history, culture and politics, and the debates in the Dail and Seanad have been dominated by ‘pro-life’ supporters and arguments lifted from publications issued by american anti-choice groups, often connected to a church.
The same arguments have been used by anti-choice supporters here in the Isle of Man, but to less effect, and in February 2018 the Revd Monsignor John Devine, Dean of the Catholic Church in the Isle of Man wrote to the Chief Minister with his views on the campaign to change the law here which distances himself and the church from the more militant stances taken by some objectors, particularly those who used graphic images in their demonstrations against reform.
“People who have abortions are not murderers and are not bad people,” Msgr Devine said. “Speaking from over 40 years’ experience as a priest, working as a chaplain in at least four different hospitals, I have learned that every abortion is an act of desperation.
“The Catholic church wishes to be supportive of those who find themselves contemplating an abortion whatever decision they take.
“Similarly, politicians proposing changes to legislation on abortion are not bad people either but individuals attempting to do what is right.
“Our search to find the truth, I told parishioners, can never be about making the rest of the world wrong so that we have the satisfaction of being right.”
Our campaign has always been about CHOICE, and the choice not to have an abortion is as valid as the choice to have one so we were pleased to see this interjection from Msgr Devine. Of course the Lord Bishop – the representative of the Church of England in the IOM – has a seat on the Legislative Council and his views on abortion were stated clearly in the debates in that place on 12 and 26 June.
The Hansard record of the LegCo second reading on 12 June is here. http://www.tynwald.org.im/business/hansard/20002020/c180612.pdf
On 26 June, the Lord Bishop made several unsuccessful attempts to introduce amendments to the Bill and then voted against the third reading. Hansard covers the debate here:
When LegCo sent the Bill back to the House of Keys to agree its amendments on 30 October it was remarkably low key (sorry) and calm (sorry again).
There were a couple of more amendments from Chris Robertshaw MHK and Chief Minister Howard Quayle MHK, but these were agreed and back to LegCo the Bill went on 6 November. It took precisely 9 minutes (including prayers) for the House of Keys amendments to the LegCo amendments to be carried, unanimously.
So this is where we are: 1 year and 11 months since Dr Allinson MHK was given leave to introduce his Abortion Reform Bill, and despite some time-wasting amendments and irrelevant speeches, it WILL become law. The Isle of Man has spoken and it’s just up to the Lord of Mann (Her Majesty the Queen) and the Privy Council to really ‘give choice a voice’.
So for now, Nollick Ghennal as Blein Vie Noa – but just in case you need them, here are the INDEPENDENT counselling and support line details.
See you in January!