The Tynwald (the legislature of the Isle of Man) is currently holding a public consultation on the details of a Private Member’s Bill which could see far-reaching reform of the island’s highly restrictive abortion laws. The deadline for submission is Monday 18 September. Humanists UK welcomes this Bill, which if passed into law will be a significant step towards the realisation of women’s reproductive and sexual rights on the Isle of Man.
The Abortion Act 1967, which regulates abortion law in England, Scotland, and Wales does not apply on the Isle of Man. Abortion on the island is regulated by its own Act which prohibits abortion in all but the most extreme cases, such as if the woman’s life is threatened or if continuing the pregnancy would cause permanent injury to the woman. In the case of pregnancies that result from rape, abortion is only permitted up to 12 weeks if the rape is reported to police, the victim signs an affidavit, and if the doctor involved believes that she has been raped.
Due to these restrictions Manx women are generally forced to travel to England, Scotland, or Wales if they are to be able to have an abortion; enduring delays, costs, and distress to access services which are freely available locally to women from the mainland. Last year, 88 women are thought to have made this journey.
The proposed Bill makes provision for abortion upon request up to 14 weeks, sets out a broader range of circumstances in which a late abortion can be carried out, including in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, and removes the barriers for victims of rape and other sexual crimes in accessing abortion services.
The aim of the consultation is to refine the draft Bill before it is debated in the Isle of Man’s Parliament, the Tynwald. It is open to the public, so any individuals or organisations with an interest in equality, human rights, and women’s reproductive rights can submit a response. Views from residents of the Isle of Man will carry particular weight. Humanists UK has prepared a response to help others draft their submissions. The majority of questions require a simply yes or no answer and the whole consultation should take no more than 15 minutes to complete.
Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘As England, Scotland, and Wales mark 50 years since the passing of the 1967 Abortion Act, we welcome this Bill which will bring about significant and much needed reform of the island’s outdated abortion legislation. In debating this Bill, we hope that the Tynwald particularly has at the forefront of its mind the need for women to have autonomy over their bodies, and be treated with dignity at all times, including in the choices they make around pregnancy.’
For further comment or information contact Richy Thompson, Director of Public Affairs and Policy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7324 3072.
Read the consultation document: https://consult.gov.im/office-of-the-clerk-of-tynwald/abortion-reform-bill-2017/
Submit an online response: https://consult.gov.im/office-of-the-clerk-of-tynwald/abortion-reform-bill-2017/consultation/intro/
Read more about Humanists UK’s campaigns work on abortion: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/sexual-and-reproductive-rights/
At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.
Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/05/22/bha-becomes-humanists-uk/