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13 November 2014

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You are in: Isle of Man > People > Abortion: The IOM Law


Abortion: The IOM Law

In the UK, MP Diane Abbott is leading a group to extend UK abortion laws to Northern Ireland, where abortion laws are strict. In the IOM, abortions are also rarely carried out. BBC IOM asks: why is this and do we care?

Can you have an abortion in the IOM?

The simple answer is: yes. However, abortions are less available than in the UK. Manx women wanting what is commonly termed, a 'social' abortion (in other words, an abortion which is not carried out for medical reasons, for example) have the procedure carried out privately, off the IOM.

In 2007, for example, 135 Manx women had private abortions in the UK whilst only 4-6 abortions occur in the IOM each year. Manx women are not entitled to UK NHS abortions.

What is the IOM abortion law?

The Termination of Pregnancy Act 1995 is still the law governing abortions in the Isle of Man.

hand on books

It was brought in to update the existing law which was largely based on the 1872 Criminal Code which made the act of abortion illegal. The 1995 act clarifies when medical practitioners can legally perform abortions or refer women for abortions.

When can abortion legally take place in the IOM?

The law states that abortions can legally be performed under certain conditions. The first condition is if 'it is necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant woman.'

An abortion can also be carried out if there will be 'grave permanent injury' to the physical or mental health of the woman.

surgeons pass instrument at operation

Termination can occur if a foetus is 'unlikely to survive birth' or if there is a risk of 'serious handicap'. Abortion in the case of Downs Syndrome is not allowed.

Pregnancies as a result of rape, incest or indecent assault can also be terminated.

A hospital surgeon and an independent medical practitioner must agree that the above criteria has been satisfied before an abortion can be carried out. In the case of 'grave permanent injury' to the woman's mental health, the other medical practitioner must be a consultant psychiatrist.

As in the UK, 24 weeks is the accepted point at which a foetus is 'viable'.

meeting on Tynwald Hill with soldiers foreground

Tynwald Hill, seat of IOM parliament

How does Manx law differ to UK law?

The UK's 1967 Abortion Act is still the law governing abortions in England, Scotland and Wales. The main difference between UK and Manx law is that in the UK, the woman's 'actual or reasonably foreseeable future environment' can be taken into account.

The Act was never intended to allow 'social' abortions per se but over time, this section of the Act has been interpreted in such a way as to allow abortions to occur for social reasons.

98% of all abortions performed in the UK are for social reasons.

Are 'social' abortions illegal in the IOM?

Not specifically. In fact, at the time the Bill was passed, it was noted in the Legislative Council that the Bill 'gives the right of a woman who finds herself in the specific circumstances defined in the Bill: choice.'

But Manx women still travel to the UK for 'social' abortions.

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last updated: 30/09/2008 at 09:31
created: 23/09/2008

Have Your Say

What are your opinions on the IOM abortion laws? NB: your identity is 100% anonymous

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

Abortion is a 'very' difficult choice and is never to be taken lightly BUT that said i have ABSOLUTELY no regrets at all having one! I was too young to be a mother (19), had my studies and wanted a career. Yes, I made tragic a mistake with someone i didn't love and thankfully i had the 'choice' to abort and move on with my life! It takes a strong mind to stand up to these foolish ideas that its all a bad thing! Its cerainly saved my life from the gutter. One day i will have a child that i planned with a caring partner. I can offer my love and yet will have the career i wanted so my child will want for nothing! You have to do what 'you' have to do and its a shame the IOM is so backwards to not face up to the facts!

The laws and IOM goverment are wrong and extremely backward thinking, they need to get their heads out of the sand and support these women who needs this service.

I think our laws are good. If you can't handle a pregnancy, don't get pregnant. Many people manage not to have unwanted pregnancies, and you shouldn't be able to kill someone just because you were careless. If it's threatening your health then fine, but not simply because you want to get rid of it.

Birch of Truth Avenue
Nobody she have the ability to "accidently" get pregnant. Everyone should be given contracption to put their reproductive function on hold and be required to apply for a licence to have the fertility block removed, subject to being able to demonstrate they are ready and able to support a child into adulthood. Makes sense.

I have just read the comments about transexual rights and note that loads of people think its ok for the NHS to pay for someone to change sex but not to have an abortion. As has been said below if they were more readily available (not as contraception) then it would undoubtedly save the DHS anyway. Also there may be fewer children who have a terrible childhood because their parents didn't want them.

I think the Manx Law is right. I don't believe in abortion unless there is medical need or rape etc.Sure accidents happen but why are people so primiscuious these days. Live with the consequences!!!

I. Towers
In my opinion it is up to the women who has to make the choice, to or not to, and not any other person/people. This is a very hard decision to make without any further presure from so called do-gooders.

One day we will all have to face the "Light of Truth". And that awareness will be that our body is really not our own, but a conduit of one of only two forces in the universe. Truth or Consequences. Do the right thing for the right reason, and follow your conscience/stillness. Repent. "True love" waits.

American - living with social abortions here
Don't be fooled. "Social Abortions" do cost a society greatly. As an American woman who has had an abortion there is no escaping the truth that abortion does adversely impact the woman and society. Women who have had an abortion have long-term effects ranging from higher rates of depression to breast cancer. Society here, where it has been legal for decades is no more willing to discuss it than on Man. It is still a dirty little secret. Why? Because it is the end of another person's life for the convenience of the parent. Is it another person's life? Genetically, yes it is. The DNA of the little one is unique from either parent, including the mother. It is better to teach people to avoid pregnancy in the first place. It worked for thousands of years. Now of course our society wants to pretend that sex can be had without consequences. Abortion and living with the loss of the child after the fact are just some of the unavoidable consequences.

Manx law seems to cover all the situations where an abortion is needed, rather than simply wanted. As the article says almost all abortions in England are matters of choice not need. But why is that choice always down to the woman? My ex-wife got pregnant but rather than change our lifestyle and have the baby she decided to have an abortion. I was against this but my feelings were brushed aside by her and by the medical "professions". She was not young at the time (in her late twenties) but a split condom led to the pregnancy.

manx cat
I think abortion is murder. Think of consequences first teenagers. You can get contraceptives easily, and they are easy to use. I feel disgusted everytime I see a 16 year old pregnant girl. Where are the parents?

paul o,north london
In a perfect world every baby would be wanted but we do not live in such a world & it isn't as if the law stops Manx women having abortions as they can go to England quite easily.At the end of the day it should be every individuals right to have an abortion if they want to.So come on Isle of Man join the 21st century,it's laws like this which give you the reputation of being backward & afraid of any change.

I think abortion should be available to anyone who needs/wants on.I say this for many reasons:1 - The woman may only be in her teens or still in schooling and not able or mature enough to become a mother, therefore the baby would suffer.2 - The child could be the result form rape or an abusive partner, not having the foetus would be procting or even saving a life.And many more.I fully understand why people would object to abortion however it should not be their choice to stop everyone.The thought of someone else looking after their child because they were not old enough (eg 13) to at the time to look after their child.But at what point would you call a fertilized embro/foetus a baby or a living human being? At conception? At birth when it takes its first breath? Who is to say where this point is or up until which point it is a large group or specialised and unspecialised cells?Each person should have the right, and it should be their own choice.I feel this issue is one that needs to be addressed otherwise young mothers may turn to extremes if abortion is not available.

So it's for the woman to choose is it? What about the baby? My daughter adopted s boy who is now 4 and a super lad, as much a part of our family as any of our grandchildren. Every child conceived deserves a chance in life.

in the know
Perhaps it is because the consultant psychiatrists on the island have over the last years tended to have been employed from Eire and are reluctant to sanction abortion

Chris Stott
Adoption, not abortion

Jane C
Well done to the BBC for tackling such a difficult issue. Manx Radio and the newspapers should sit up and take note!

The government's head is stuck in the clouds here. Abortion is still going to happen, no matter what the law, so let's get the law made a bit more fair please.

We're all being very vocal about our views here - maybe it's time to put our money where our mouths are and write to our MHKs about this? I'm a bit nervous about putting my views out there with my real name attached but I think that if we want things to change, that's what we'll all have to do.

Jane Drinkwater
I'm amazed to read that the DHSS, when asked for a TV news interview, merely issued the comment that it wasn't appropriate for them to comment on the abortion laws! If it's not them then WHO is going to comment? It is a health issue, afterall!

Carol, Onchan
I agree with all the comments so far & it's long overdue addressing this sensitive issue. AS Ollie says who's going to stick their neck out?@ No one as usual!!

Sarah, Ramsey
Sadly there are quite a lot of laws on the IOM which are not clear cut. It seems that no one is bothered to change them unless there is some kind of crisis. Why leave it for a crisis? There are lots of women who need this service and they pay their national health insurance so why can't they have this at least done on the NHS in the UK? OR the IOM government should at least cover the costs of those women travelling to the UK because it's not their fault that they can't get an abortion done over here.

Jackie Q., Onchan
This is very interesting to read. I had no idea what the actual law said but I knew that if you wanted an abortion that you could not get one here. When we were teenagers we were terrified of becoming pregnant because we knew we wouldn't be able to afford an abortion. But I do't think it stopped teenagers having sex . It just made it more nerve wracking if you thought you were pregnant! I don't think that legalising it over here would be a bad thing. It's going to happen anyway so why not change the law so that women can be more comfortable. They do form half the voting population afterall!

What age are we living in that women do not have the right to choose their own course of action unless they are rich enough? The Isle of Man benefits from a prosperity that the UK can only dream of, we offer business people comfy tax breaks and Hollywood stars a pretty setting, so how come behind the scenes our women's Human Rights are stuck in the Dark Ages?

Andy, Onchan
The issues certainly need to be brought out into the open but that can only happen once the public are made aware of what the statistics are.Unfortunately we are all being kept in the dark about that because a) for social abortions done in UK IOM doctors record abortions simply as "no longer pregnant" (or something similar) and to my mind more importantly, b) there is no legislation in place for collating these kind of statistics. On top of that of course there are moral and medical/scientific issues to grapple with. It's a hard one to get grips with but for sure as a society we shouldn't run away from it, whatever the final outcome. We should be mature & brave enough as an Island society to deal with this on our own terms.

The laws should be changed. But who is going to stick their neck out?

Peter S.
Why is no one talking about this on the island? it needs sorting out!

Julie, UK
I think there needs to be more emphasis on teaching in schools about relationships, to stop teenagers getting pregnant in the first place.

Margaret Jones
If abortion was available in the Isle of Man as it is in the UK, then there may well be a drop in the number of single mothers requiring support by Social Security and subsidized housing. This would be a major benefit to the island. Not many young, single women have 2 thousand pounds to spare.

i think that it stupid to say that only 4to6 women a year have an abortion a year

Andy, Onchan
Good article but as usual emotive issues like this provide more questions than answers.One question I have is: if private abortion clinics were avaiable on IOM could, under the current legislation, 'social' abortions be carried out?Seems to me that the only issue stopping 'social' abortions on IOM is the lack of private clinics since Manx law is capable of being interpreted any which way to suit whatever circumstances, especially since "the Bill 'gives the right of a woman who finds herself in the specific circumstances defined in the Bill: choice'" Or am I being immature in thinking that the legislators on the issue of private clinics in IOM was deliberately left open in case it was necessary for them to be introduced at some point due to changes in legislation in UK which would prevent Manx women having access to private 'social' abortions? Or was the subject of abortion generally so taboo that our legislators preferred to take the easy way out by being as non-committal in the drafting of the statute as to be completely ineffective?You would think that having over 1,000 years of continuous parliament we would have had enough practice and knowledge to legislate for issue such as this. Seems not.

Linda, Douglas
Let's see more of this kind of thing please! (You never get this sort of in depth journalism from the papers! Well done.)

This is the first time I've ever understood what the laws are over here. This is very useful - thanks. But why can't we have the same laws as in England?

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