The Abortion Reform Bill has been approved fully by the Legislative Council.

This morning, MLCs dealt with all of its clauses - including 71 proposed amendments - and then suspended rules so that they could take the third and final reading at the same sitting. At that point, the historic vote to approve wide-reaching change was 8-1 in favour, with only Bishop Peter Eagles voting against.

The bill will still need to go back to the House of Keys for final approval, however.

The Bishop failed with all of his tabled amendments, including attempts to reduce the time limits for abortion on request from 14 weeks to 12 weeks and for abortion in specified circumstances to be brought down from 15 to 24 weeks to 13 to 22.

He also failed in a bid to prevent abortion being allowed on the grounds of ’serious impairment’ after 24 weeks.

In fact, the Bishop only gained a seconder for one of his amendments - meaning the others were rejected without any further debate. MLCs had previously argued that the issue of timescales and impairment had been dealt with by the House of Keys.

The one amendment that did gain a seconder was an attempt to re-word the clause that allows for conscientious objection among health staff. But that was defeated by five votes to four.

A number of technical amendments were approved, while Kerry Sharpe MLC successfully tabled a further amendment to ensure that remains following a procedure would continue to be treated with respect.

There was a late spat, during the brief third reading debate, when the Bishop expressed concern about the message the bill could have and warned that the consequence could be ’moral slippage’.

That earned a sharp retort from Tanya August-Hanson, who said: ’That shows a blatant disregard for those who are making a decision to abort, one of the most challenging decisions they will ever have to make.’

At the end of the third reading, there were hugs among the members of the Campaign for Abortion Law Modernisation, who had been watching in the public gallery.

Speaking afterwards, spokesman Stephanie Kelsey said: ’It was a pleasant surprise that Bill Henderson sought to suspend standing orders in order to push on with the third reading today. We are very pleased.’

She said the group looked forward to the bill returning to the House of Keys, for consideration of the Legislative Council amendments, then being ready to go forward for royal assent and to become law.

That will take place in the autumn, due to the upcoming summer recess.

When the bill becomes law, abortion will be permitted upon request up to 14 weeks, under specified circumstances during the 15-24-week period, and in certain emergency or serious situations after 24 weeks. Provision has also been added to create ’access zones’ around medical centres to protect women and medics from harassment.

Under the current Manx law, a termination is allowed in the island up to 24 weeks, but only where medical practitioners consider there is substantial risk the child will not survive birth, will die shortly afterwards or will be seriously handicapped.

Pregnancies resulting from rape, incest or sexual assault may be terminated up to 12 weeks, but women must provide an affidavit attesting to the cause of the pregnancy.

Terminations on social grounds are not permitted under the current law.

Campaigners say hundreds of women have been forced to either travel to England for a procedure or risk obtaining abortion pills via the internet, as a result of the current restrictive regime.