Manx legislature passes most liberal abortion law in British Isles

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The upper house of the Isle of Man's legislature passed Tuesday a bill that will liberalize abortion access in the territory. The Abortion Reform Bill 2018 now needs only receive royal assent and promulgation before it becomes law.Members of the Legislative Council unanimously passed the bill with its amendments Nov. 6.

Abortion policy on the the Isle of Man, a crown dependency located between England and Northern Ireland, is currently governed by the Termination of Pregnancy Act 1995, which allows abortion only in cases where the mother’s life is endangered or if the baby has a low survival rate.

The Abortion Reform Bill 2018 decriminalizes abortion. It will allow elective abortion up to 14 weeks; up to 24 weeks if medical reasons or “serious social grounds” were presented; and, according to Isle of Man Today, “in certain emergency or serious situations after 24 weeks.”

Among amendments made to the bill were measures regarding counseling services and conscientious objection.

It will provide for buffer zones around medical centers to keep pro-life counselors and protesters at a distance from women procuring abortion, as well as measures to prevent sex-selective abortions.

The Anglican bishop of Sodor and Man, Peter Eagles, who is ex officio a member of the Legislative Council, had voted against the bill earlier in the year, but was in favor of it Tuesday.

“I see these amendments as being entirely within the spirit of the discussion held in this council earlier and as being instrumental in enhancing the bill’s effectiveness,” Eagles said, according to Isle of Man Today.

The bill has been opposed by the Catholic Church on the island and by Humanity and Equality in Abortion Reform.

Supporters of abortion rights have expressed hope that the bill's passage will strengthen abortion reform across the United Kingdom.

The bill will go to Richard Gozney, Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Man, to receive royal assent Nov. 20. It will be promulgated on Tynwald Day, July 5, 2019.

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