Douglas, Isle of Man, Jan 16, 2019 / 12:39 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Isle of Man's Abortion Reform Bill 2018 gained royal assent Tuesday, meaning women in the territory will soon be able to procure elective abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy.
Abortion policy on the the Isle of Man, a crown dependency located between England and Northern Ireland, had been 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.
Royal assent was given Jan. 15 by Richard Gozney, Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Man.
Abortion rights supporters have urged the Department of Health and Social Care to enact the change as soon as possible.
The bill, which decriminalizes abortion, was passed unanimously by the Legislative Council Nov. 6, 2018. It allows 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 an ex officio member of the Legislative Council, had voted against the bill earlier in the year, but was in favor of it at the November vote.
“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.
It was expected to receive royal assent in 2018, but Manx Radio reported that the process was delayed by “the increased workload currently on the UK's civil service” due to preparations for Brexit.
To gain royal assent, the British Ministry of Justice needed to examine the bill to ensure its compliance with human rights laws.
“There have been several recent cases where anti-abortion groups have tried to overturn laws made by democratically elected parliaments through employing barristers to present technical legal arguments,” Alex Allinson, a Member of the House of Keys, told Manx Radio last week.
The bill will be promulgated on Tynwald Day, July 5, 2019.
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