Isle of Man government grants leave to re-draw abortion laws

Credit: ITV Granada

The Isle of Man government has backed new legislation to allow looking into changing abortion law.

Members of the House of Keys listened to a motion brought forward by Dr Alex Allinson from the Department of Home Affairs and discussed afterwards for two hours.

He outlined what the current Termination of Pregnancy Act 1995 entails, including the fact that abortion is legal only if it will create grave or permanent injury to the woman, also that termination is performed in such a manner to preserve the right of the child.

He stated that approximately 250 women have travelled to the UK for an abortion every year, and that the Act only serves five or six women.

Allinson also highlighted the fact that those women from a poor background were not supported, often resulting in ordering abortion pills online.

He said, "I see it as an unjust and unfair act. I apologise for the service on this island and the barriers it erects."

The MHK asked permission for a new bill allowing abortion up to 14 weeks and that victims of rape or incest not to have to swear an oath. They also want counselling to be offered.

MHK Chris Robertshaw's motion to have a select committee appointed to look over the legislation was rejected by the House.

Where will those terminations take place? How much will it cost? Are we looking at a potential 50,000 pounds? While I support Dr Allinson's update, how terminations will work on the island will need careful thought. I don’t want this issue ‘kicked into the long grass’, I want it dealt with in a compassionate way.

– Daphne Caine, MHK for Garff

Normally, I'm a person who likes a deadline, but this one I think could be slightly different. We have over 2,000 medical professionals, who will want to give evidence. I don’t know how long that will take. How long is a piece of string?

– Kate Beecroft, Health and Social Care Minister

A woman on the Isle of Man has even more risks to take than that of the UK. She must attempt to access services not monitored by our department. She will need to pay for the abortion. She will need to pay for a companion. Those of lower means may not be able to afford this. Coathangers, pills, throwing themselves against hard objects or hitting stomachs. Desperate circumstances. They take risks, and when one of them dies will [Government] sit back? There is evidence of the risks. We need to change this legislation. The fact that we know people are breaking the law is an indication that we need to change the law.

– Clare Bettison, Health and Social Care minister