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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.
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.
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'.
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
Have Your Say
What are your opinions on the IOM abortion laws? NB: your identity is 100% anonymous
Birch of Truth Avenue
American - living with social abortions here
paul o,north london
in the know
Jackie Q., Onchan