You might be wondering what’s happening with our new Abortion Law – well so, are we.
The order paper for the January sitting of Tynwald has been published with no mention of the progress of the Abortion Reform Bill on it so we’ve talked to the mover of the Bill, Dr Alex Allinson MHK to find out what’s going on and this is what he told us. The Bill was sent to the UK for Royal Assent just after the 20 November sitting and is still there. The hold up is due firstly to Brexit (or at least due to the political and civil service work that’s involved) and secondly, to ensure that the law when enacted is compliant with all human rights laws and will be able to withstand any legal challenge.
We are not lawyers, politicians or civil servants so aren’t in a position to comment on any of this except to say that this delay is incredibly frustrating.
And for those women with crisis pregnancies, who need safe local abortion services NOW it’s more than frustrating: it’s costly – mentally, physically and financially.
If this is you, here are the contact details for Abortion Support Network, BPAS and the local independent counselling service.
The Abortion Support Network in the UK is able to give advice, support and, if necessary, financial assistance for anyone who can travel across for an abortion. They ask that you look at the website first www.asn.org.uk and then contact them using the form or phone numbers there.
BPAS has a contact number for anyone who has taken abortion pills bought online: 0800 077 6049
For local non-directive and independent pre- and post-abortion counselling call: 01624 642540.
However, there is a plus side to this delay: the change in the law IS coming and we understand the Department of Health is using this time to put the necessary services together so that once the Bill is is passed, it can be enacted more speedily.
Meanwhile, over in Ireland ….
If you’ve been following the change of the law in Ireland you’ll know that despite being rolled out on 1 January, there are some parts of the country (many in remote areas) where abortion services aren’t yet available. You’ll also know that there is a 3 day ‘cooling off’ period in the law, meaning more visits to doctors, and that ultra-sound scans must be offered – often meaning another appointment – and all only available up to 12 weeks gestation.
There are also issues with anti-choice protests outside those clinics where abortions are available.
We might be still waiting for the change in our abortion law in the Isle of Man, but we know that what we’ll get is a far better law than that in Ireland – and includes decriminalisation of abortion. And anti-choice protests as have already been seen in Ireland, less than a week after their new law was enacted, simply won’t happen here: buffer/access zones have been written into our new law.
The situation in Northern Ireland is even more tricky – the Irish Dept of Health will be offering Northern Irish women abortion services (provided they meet the criteria laid down in the new Irish law) but at a cost – around 450 Euros. As you probably know, Northern Irish women were given the right to free abortions at clinics in England and Wales earlier last year, but they still need to fund the travel/accommodation bills. Because the Northern Ireland assembly has not sat for some time, this is being progressed in Westminster – but very slowly. Meanwhile activists Northern Ireland are campaigning for women there to have the same access as in the rest of the UK, and also joining with those in Ireland to make services there less costly and more accessible than flying to clinics in England or Wales.
But back to the Isle of Man.
The February sitting of Tynwald is 19-21 February and we hope that the Abortion Reform Bill will have received Royal Assent by then. You can follow us on twitter @calmiom or see our facebook page www.facebook.com/calmiom for updates.
New (27 December) guidelines from the Department of Health and Social Services in the UK state that women having medical abortions in clinics in England can only take the second tablet (misoprostal) at at “a place in England where a pregnant woman has her permanent address or usually resides”. This excludes any women from the Isle of Man taking the second pill in a hotel, or at the home of a relative of friend. The Buzzfeed article is particularly concerned with the discrimation against Northern Irish women (who are, of course, UK citizens) but this will impact on us too. The knock-on effect is that women will opt for surgical terminations – and the risks that surgery involves – to avoid having to stay in England for longer.
In England, Scotland and Wales, women have won the right to take the second pill at home. When the Abortion Reform Bill becomes law here, this will be the case in the Isle of Man, but until it receives Royal Assent and is enacted, any woman from here attending a clinic in England will have to stay the requisite 48 hours before the second pill can be taken at the same clinic.
CALM has always been aware that women from the Isle of Man are more likely to opt for surgical abortions than medical ones, even when medical ones are safer (less than 10 weeks gestation) – figures from the UK DHSC show this – but these new guidelines will make this even more common.