Draft Isle of Man abortion bill put out to public consultation

Image caption,
A group of women conducted a silent protest against the island's abortion law on Tynwald Day

A draft bill which proposes changes to Manx abortion law has been put out to public consultation.

The Abortion Reform Bill would allow women to request an abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy and loosen restrictions on having one later.

Abortions on the Isle of Man can only be legally carried out if the pregnancy is the result of rape or because of concerns over a woman's mental health.

Fewer than 10 abortions happen on the island annually, according to Tynwald.

The online consultation follows a decision by the Manx parliament in January to allow the redrafting of abortion laws.

The Isle of Man government said the bill would "emphasise the role of prompt non-biased counselling for all women to help them examine their choices and arrive at the right decision for them in the early stages of pregnancy".

If it is passed, the bill would replace the Termination of Pregnancy Act 1995.

Image caption,
Anti-abortion campaigners gathered outside Tynwald last summer

In Great Britain, abortions are funded by the NHS, but Manx women have to pay for both the procedure and travel expenses.

Under Manx law, anyone found guilty of aborting a child could face two years in prison, although no-one has ever been prosecuted.

According to the UK Department of Health, 88 women travelled from the island to England in 2016 for terminations.

Sue Richardson, of the anti-abortion Life Isle of Man group, said the island's current "rigorous" procedure was "necessary to ensure both the value of human life is respected and women are protected".

"The laws on the island should protect women from exploitation by the abortion industry," she added.

A spokeswoman for the Campaign for Abortion Law Modernisation (CALM) said the organisation was "delighted" about the consultation, which showed their "pro-choice message has been heard loud and clear across the Isle of Man".

She added that the new bill would "meet the needs of the island's women".

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