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Isle of Man consultation shows overwhelming support for abortion reform

The Isle of Man Government has published the results of a consultation held on proposals to remove restrictions to accessing abortion services on the island. The overwhelming majority of respondents favoured the removal of restrictions, with 87 percent agreeing that a woman should have an unrestricted choice to request an abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy and 73.2 percent believing that abortion should be available in some circumstances after 24 weeks. Humanists UK, which responded to the consultation in September, has stated that the results demonstrate strong demand by Manx citizens for change and for the realisation of women’s reproductive and sexual rights on the island.

The consultation focused on the terms of a Private Member’s Bill on abortion reform that is being brought before the Tynwald (the legislature of the Isle of Man). 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.

82.8 percent of respondents stated that there should be some social situations in which a woman should be able to choose to have an abortion, with 81.5 percent agreeing that cases of fatal fetal abnormality should be included as grounds for an abortion, even after 24 weeks. 84.7 percent stated that a woman should be able to request an abortion in cases of sexual crime, including rape, without having to report the crime to the police.

The Abortion Act 1967, which regulates abortion law in England, Scotland, and Wales does not apply on the Isle of Man. Currently, 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.

Humanists UK Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan commented, ‘As England, Scotland and Wales mark 50 years since the passing of the 1967 Abortion Act, we welcome the results of this consultation and strongly support the introduction of the Abortion Reform Bill 2017. We hope that this Bill, if passed into law, will bring about much needed reform of the island’s outdated, restrictive abortion legislation and strengthen the case for similar reform in Northern Ireland.’

Notes

For further comment or information contact Richy Thompson, Director of Public Affairs and Policy at richy@humanism.org.uk or 020 7324 3072.

Read the consultation document: https://consult.gov.im/office-of-the-clerk-of-tynwald/abortion-reform-bill-2017/

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/

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