The House of Keys went into ‘committee of the whole house’ yesterday (6 March) to consider amendments to the clauses of the Abortion Reform Bill. It was a long, involved debate with excellent points being raised and, ultimately, voted on.
We’ll post a complete breakdown later, but our last post which detailed CALM’s objections to some of the amendments was seen by Alf Cannan MHK who tabled an amendment to remove Clause 11 (4).
Mr Cannan is a vocal supporter of the Abortion Reform Bill, and was concerned that CALM had misconstrued his intentions – here is his email response to our post (where we asked MHKs to vote against his amendment) and we would like to thank Mr Cannan for taking the time to contact us to explain why he feels it is necessary.
Email from Alf Cannan MHK
I must take issue with your statement that I am seeking to criminalize women who seek to self administer medication or drugs from the internet for the purposes of procuring a miscarriage.
I feel it is appropriate to explain further why I am proposing that clause 11 (4) is removed from the Bill.
The wording of 11 (4) absolves a pregnant woman from committing an offence through soliciting from, or inciting, another person to prescribe or supply a medicinal product to procure a miscarriage or taking a relevant product to do so.
In other words a woman is not guilty of any offence by obtaining the relevant products (presumably online and from overseas) and inducing an abortion irrespective of any timescales or health implications. It surely therefore calls into question the relevance of attaching any timescales to Abortion (as in clause 6) as, providing the drugs can be obtained, a woman can self-administer at any point during the pregnancy term and not be guilty of an offence.
It also calls into question the relevance of clause 5 which determines that Abortions may only be provided under the Isle of Man National Health and Care Service and in a National Health Service Hospital. This is clearly not the case as outlined in 11 (4) – an abortion can in fact take place anywhere provided the woman has procured the medicinal products herself. There is no requirement under this clause for her to do it under NHS care or in a NHS Hospital.
You will note that 11 (3) makes it an offence (fine or 5 years custody) for a person who prescribes or supplies a medicinal product to a pregnant woman unless it is in a National Health Service Hospital or they are a registered medical practioner, midwife nurse or pharmacist. It is worth arguing that if it is in fact legal and acceptable for a woman to self-administer these products outside of the NHS at made clear by 11 (4), why criminalise those who may only be trying to support or help a woman?
Clause 11(4) is highly questionable in that it challenges much of the purpose of bringing this legislation in the first place. Removing this Clause will not “criminalise” women seeking abortions from online pills and medicines but it will mean that the risks and problems of unregulated medicines are not decriminalised. It will also mean that the Bill remains purposeful when it comes to timescales and the medical support offered by the NHS.
We should not be legitimizing online unregulated drugs. What if someone suffers serious internal injury as a result of this clause ? The whole point of the Bill was to address and resolve the issue of Manx women having to procure these drugs in the first place and / or having to travel across the water.
You also state that removing this clause would open the way for the police and customs authorities to track packages and for prosecutions to take place. I hope you will acknowledge that clause 11.3 already allows for this by criminalizing those who procure or supply products and I would hope that you amend your website accordingly to reflect that.
I am very happy to provide any further explanations and I hope this helps. It may also help you to know that I do support the aims and objectives that you set out on your website.
Alfred Cannan MHK
Mr Cannan’s argument was sufficiently robust to convince a majority of his fellow Members of the House of Keys and the amendment was carried – Clause 11(4) will be removed from the Abortion Reform Bill 2018.