Isle of Man 'must update abortion law'

image copyrightKatarzyna Bialasiewicz
image captionAbout 100 women from the Isle of Man are thought to annually seek abortions in the UK

Women in the Isle of Man should have the same abortion rights as those in England, Scotland and Wales, a Member of the House of Keys (MHK) says.

Fewer than 10 terminations happen each year on the island because, in most circumstances, its laws prohibit them.

As a result, an estimated 100 women a year seek private abortions in the UK.

Alex Allinson, a Ramsey GP and MHK, said the law should be changed. The Manx government said it was reviewing public opinion on the subject.

media captionAbortions on the Isle of Man are only permitted in a limited number of instances

In England, Wales and Scotland, women can access abortion services up to 24 weeks.

In the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland abortion is only allowed if a woman's life is at risk.

Under the Isle of Man's 1995 Termination of Pregnancy Act, abortions are only permitted in a limited number of instances.

These include when a pregnancy has resulted from rape, or because of a woman's mental health needs.

Anyone found guilty of aborting a child could in theory face two years in prison, although no-one has ever been prosecuted.

image captionAlex Allinson will seek permission from the House of Keys for a legislative update on Tuesday

Mr Allinson said he would raise the subject in the House of Keys on Tuesday and hoped there would be a change in the law.

He said: "The Isle of Man is an incredibly vibrant place to live, we've got groundbreaking rules in terms of civil partnerships and we've got an equality bill coming through which will be one of the best in the world.

"Why shouldn't we look at the abortion law as well and make sure it's up-to-date and fit for the women of this island?"

The Campaign for Abortion Law Modernisation (Calm) also wants to bring Manx law into line with the UK.

Spokeswoman Samantha Morris said: "We're aware that 479 women in the past five years have travelled across to the UK... and those are just the ones that we know about."

Mara Clarke, of the Abortion Support Network, said it could cost between £400 and £2,000 to have an abortion privately in the UK.

She added: "Women with money have options, women without money don't.

"Being a parent is a really big deal and you want to give that job to someone who wants it, not as a punishment for a broken condom or a lapse in judgement."

She said some Manx women had resorted to desperate ways to end their pregnancies, including deliberately crashing their car, or taking heroin.

One woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, told the BBC she became pregnant during an abusive relationship.

She said: "I told my GP that I was pregnant and I didn't want to be and all he said was: 'Let me know if you change your mind'.

"After that, it was literally me and the Yellow Pages. There is no other option than to get on a boat or plane.

"We're not in the 1950s - it's medieval."

But calls have also been made for the Manx parliament to reject Dr Allinson's proposals.

image captionAnti-abortion campaigner Graham McAll opposes any change to the current laws

The Humanity and Equality in Abortion Reform (Hear) campaign has described the proposed law change as "regressive".

Spokesman Graham McAll said: "We've got to balance the right of the woman to life and health, and the right of the baby to life and health.

"In my view you cannot say that the baby is not a human being."

Health Minister Kate Beecroft said: "We've got two groups that both say different things.

"Maybe that's why it hasn't changed as there are two opposing forces.

"We are at the beginning of the process, looking at it and seeing if there's an appetite for change."

You can see more on this story on BBC One's Inside Out North West on Monday 23 January at 19:30 GMT

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