The Abortion Reform Bill completed its passage through the branches of Tynwald today.

The Legislative Council approved the final amendments made by the House of Keys, which means all that remains is for the Bill to be signed off in Tynwald and sent for royal assent.

Then it can become law and the Isle of Man’s strict rules on abortion will be relaxed.

Today’s proceedings were largely a formality. The Bill had to go back to the upper chamber after the House of Keys imposed its own amendments on top of amendments made by the Legislative Council earlier in the process.

The latest changes tightened parts of the Bill in relation to counselling services available for women after a termination, the definition of ’treatment’, which clarifies the extent of conscientious objection, and a strengthening of the position to prevent sex-selective abortions.

Under the Bill, which was drawn up and guided through the House of Keys by Dr Alex Allinson (Ramsey), abortion will be permitted upon request up to 14 weeks, under specified circumstances including ’serious social grounds’ during the 15- to 24-week period, and in certain emergency or serious situations after 24 weeks.

Provision has also been included to create ’access zones’ around medical centres to protect women and medics from harassment.

Putting forward the final amendments, Jane Poole-Wilson told her Legislative Council colleagues: ’I would like to echo the sentiments expressed by Dr Allinson and others last week, namely that this important bill has received detailed consideration and scrutiny during its passage through both the branches, with debates being conducted throughout in a mature and considerate way.’

The final changes were supported unanimously by MLCs.

Bishop Peter Eagles, who voted against the Bill when the Legislative Council approved it earlier this year, said: ’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.’