On 24 May 2019, the terms of the Abortion Reform Act came into play and the previous law, with its archaic and descriminatory ‘medical defences’clauses, was finally commited to history.
At last the people of the Isle of Man had true choice over their own reproductive decisions – abortion was now decriminalised and a legal option, should the pregnant person choose it.
Inevitably it wasn’t all plain sailing – and if you scroll back to our blogs on that day you’ll know that despite the Act being passed into law in January 2019 and receiving Royal Assent soon after, the terms of the new service weren’t clear even on 24 May. However, that’s now water under the bridge and the IOM Abortion service is being run in conjunction with BPAS, and medical terminations are now available on-Island up to 9 weeks and 6 days gestation.
Following promulgation of the Act on Tynwald Day, at the sitting of Tynwald later in July 2019 there were a number of questions for written answer put by Members of the House of Keys and Legislative Council to the Minister of Health and Social Care regarding the implementation of the service. You can find the questions and answers (numbers 35, 73 and 74) here http://www.tynwald.org.im/business/hansard/20002020/t190716.pdf
These questions were about how the Act was being implemented and the answers cover providing additional training for medical professionals and, ultimately, reducing the need for women to travel for early surgical abortions. And regarding the provision of pre- and post-abortion counselling which was such a key part of the Act (and much discussed during the debates).
CALM is above all a campaign group – and we began by campaigning AGAINST the need for women to travel off-island for procedures which can safely take place in the Isle of Man. We fully expect the UK Dept of Health abortion statistics for 2019 (expected to be published next month) to show a drop in the number of people travelling from here to UK clinics in the second half of that year, but it will be interesting to see how many people will still have been advised to travel for a surgical procedure after 9 weeks 6 days when evidence shows that medical abortions are safe up to at least 12 weeks.
In addition the answer to Question 74 refers to the need to ensure that pre and post abortion counselling is fully available to anyone who requests it – and that there was some work still to be done on that.
So one year on, how is the IOM Abortion Service working? Last summer there was some talk that there could be an official review of the abortion service one year after it was put in place – in other words, now – perhaps under the aegis of the Social Affairs Policy Review Committee. But of course no one then expected the global pandemic of Covid-19.
The House of Keys, Legislative Council and Tynwald are sitting ‘virtually’, politicians and government officials are working from home, meetings are socially distanced or via video conferencing and the agendas are understandably full of the ongoing effects of the virus – on the health service, education, social interactions, the border closure and of course the economy.
CALM knows that any review can’t possibly take place right now – but Covid or not, people still need to accesss the Island’s abortion service. And it needs to be service promised in the Abortion Reform Act 2019.
CALM hopes that as everything gets back to normal (or as normal as possible) our politicians will remember that THEY passed the Abortion Reform Act, and it is THEIR duty to ensure that the terms of the Act are followed to the letter. The Isle of Man deserves no less.
The telephone number for the Isle of Man Abortion Service is 01624 642521.