Humanists UK has called for abortion to become legal, including women to be allowed to take abortion pills at home, in a consultation response on the terms of the Isle of Man Abortion Reform Bill 2017. In October, the Scottish Government announced that it would allow abortion pills to be taken outside of a hospital setting after recent medical studies have shown that it is both safe and effective. Humanists UK, which also called for far-reaching reforms of the island’s highly restrictive abortion laws in an initial consultation held in September, believes that admittance to a hospital or clinic is an unnecessary burden to women and no longer reflects the medical reality of abortion procedures.
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. Due to these restrictions Manx women are generally forced to travel to England, Scotland, or Wales, 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.
In an initial consultation on the terms of the Bill, 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.
However, the Bill proposes to restrict the location in which abortions can take place to hospitals or approved clinics, similar to the terms of the Abortion Act 1967. But this Act was created over fifty years ago and does not reflect the medical advances that have taken place since then. The vast majority of terminations occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and are carried out by the taking of two medications. Such medications can be safely taken in the woman’s home or a location that she decides is suitable for managing the after-effects of the procedure. A study carried out by the University of Texas found that in 95% of cases, women in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland who used online-purchased abortion pills safely ended their pregnancies and did not require medical attention, and none of those who did require medical attention had any serious lasting side-effects.
Humanists UK Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan commented, ‘We are supportive of the proposed legislation on the Isle of Man, which will go a long way towards the realisation of sexual and reproductive rights for Manx women. However, we believe that the Bill should reflect the advances made in medical technology over the last fifty years, which has lead to hospital admittance being unnecessary for the vast majority of women seeking an abortion.’
For further comment or information contact Rachel Taggart-Ryan, Campaigns Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0207 324 3065.
Read our response to the consultation here: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018-01-04-RTR-FINAL-Abortion-Isle-of-Man-SECOND-Consultation.pdf
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/