At this month’s Tynwald sitting (21 – 23 May) Members are being asked to approve three orders which will ensure that the regulations in the Abortion Reform Act 2019 actually work.
The first Order
refers to access zones around Noble’s hospital – a topic dear to CALM’s heart as provision of these (or buffer zones) has always been central to our view of a law which works for those who access abortion services, or who provides them, and protects them from undue harassment or intimidation.
Lengthy and informed debate in the House of Keys covered the legal questions of freedom of speech and freedom to protest, and CALM is confident that the Attorney General’s office, and his legal drafters, have answered these in Part 3 of the Act, and specifically section 19(1) and section 22 which inform this order.
Specifically, the access zone comprises the entire Noble’s estate, including the land on which the hospital stands, and public roads within 100 metres of the site.
This Order, once approved, will create a number of offences. It will be unlawful for instance to interfere, impede or repeatedly communicate with a person without their consent in the access zone, having been warned not to do so by a constable.
Provision for access zones around the hospital, made under part 3 of the Act, also allows for the High Court to impose injunctions to restrain individuals from contravening the access zone.
Time will tell whether anyone chooses to test this.
The next Order concerns the disposal of a foetus following a termination. Whether or not you agree with the term, ‘disposal’ is the word used in the Abortion Reform Act, in a clause introduced by Kerry Sharpe MLC, and means that anyone who has an abortion will have the opportunity to choose what happens to the foetus – whether it is an early medical termination or a much later termination of pregnancy.
The full order is here http://www.tynwald.org.im/business/opqp/sittings/20182021/2019-GC-0003.pdf and is well worth a read.
The third Order is concerned with record keeping. If you remember, right at the beginning of the legislative process – when Dr Allinson MHK was seeking leave to introduce what was then a Private Member’s Bill – the then Health Minister Kate Beecroft MHK, said there was no medical evidence that reform was necessary and subsequently voted against Dr Allinson introducing it.
But that’s in the past, and by approving this Order
the Isle of Man will not only have the evidence of number of terminations carried out, whether medical or surgical, but will also be able to compare it directly with the figures provided by the UK Dept of Health about how many people have travelled to the UK in the past – or at least those who gave IOM addresses.
There are, of course, some differences with the UK law – for example, there is no requirement for a person to give a reason for the decision to have a termination up to 14 weeks. The reason which should be recorded is simple – requested by patient.
PLEASE NOTE – There is absolutely NO evidence (contrary to what some anti-choice activists say) that providing easily accessible, fair and safe terminations increases the number which are carried out.
The Abortion Reform Act 2019 means that from 24 May 2019 the provision of safe, legal and local terminations is part of reproductive healthcare service in the Isle of Man – not before time.