After the Lord Bishop delayed the ‘consideration of clauses’ of the Abortion Reform Bill 2018 at the last sitting of the Isle of Man’s Legislative Council when he introduced three new witnesses, the upper branch of Tynwald is back again on Tuesday 26 June to carry on where it left off.
There are now 58 proposed amendments – most of which are to tighten up the language and for clarity – but nine are proposed by the Lord Bishop, which, if carried, would substantially alter the Bill.
We’re sure you remember that the Rt Revd Peter Eagles, the Lord Bishop of Sodor and Mann, is the only unelected member of Tynwald (a matter which has provoked a great deal of discussion in recent months, not least because of his proposed amendments to this Bill) but we have to give him his due, he was obviously listening during the last sitting and has changed one of his amendments since then.
In the concated list of amendments before LegCo on 12 June, #42 read:
Page 15, after line 32 ….insert—
“(3) A person who, under subsection (2), supplies a relevant product to a woman must secure that it is taken by the woman only in the presence of a relevant professional or a pharmacist.”. (The Lord Bishop)
In the list for the 22 June sitting, this now reads (new amendment #40):
Page 15, after line 32 insert—
“(3) A person who, under subsection (2), supplies a relevant product to a
woman must secure that she is provided with appropriate support by a
relevant professional in connection with its administration.” (The Lord
It’s only a small change, but it is vital.
The 12 June version would have meant that a woman would have to return to the clinic/GP/pharmacist to take the second dose of abortion medication. This is what already happens when an Isle of Man woman travels to the UK for a medical abortion – and means she could abort the foetus, with associated pain and bleeding, whilst on the journey home: it just substitutes a boat or plane journey for the bus, a taxi or in a car on the way back to her own bed.
We assume that the Lord Bishop listened to other members of LegCo two weeks ago, and to Dr Allinson MHK who was invited to the sitting, and realised that his original amendment was not only insulting – why can’t women be trusted to take medication prescribed for them by themselves? – but also cruel.
Although we obviously commend him for that re-think, it’s worth noting that the Lord Bishop’s other amendments go against the will of the House of Keys, by reducing time limits from 14 to 12 weeks, and from 24 to 22 weeks for those very rare late terminations for medical reasons. Lord Bishop may have missed the many debates in the House of Keys (and recorded in Hansard) when it was stated that reducing it to 22 weeks was unworkable: not only would it put an increased burden on the families of these much wanted babies to make a decision immediately after the 20 week scan with no time for thought, counselling, information gathering or discussion with specialists, but these late terminations are actually carried out in specialist hospitals in the UK – where the limit is 24 weeks.
Although none of the clauses were considered at the 12 June sitting of the Legislative Council, Bill Henderson MLC did move the second reading of the Bill (seconded by Jane Poole-Wilson MLC) and it was carried by 8 votes – 1, with just the Lord Bishop voting against.
All the amendments proposed on 26 June will need seconders: it will be interesting to see which MLCs choose to support the Lord Bishop.
We’ve attached relevant links from the Tynwald website here:
1. LegCo sitting 12 June, Hansard record – it’s nearly 70 pages long, but worth reading – particularly to understand how much thought and consideration Members of the Legislative Council have put into the scrutiny of the Bill.
2. New concacted list of amendments to Abortion Reform Bill 2018 for 26 June
3. Abortion Reform Bill 2018
LegCo sits at 10.30am on Tuesday 26 June – the public are welcome to attend so why not come along?