Bring Humanity and Equality into Abortion Reform on the Isle of Man
The Isle of Man is a unique place, with a unique history. It has the oldest continuously operating Parliament in the world, Tynwald, and a constitution and legal system that is entirely distinct from the United Kingdom.
One special and important area of the Isle of Man’s legal and political tradition, is its abortion law. When members of Tynwald framed the Termination of Pregnancy (Medical Defences) Act in 1995, they learnt from the mistakes of their British counterparts, and created a law with much greater rigour in its safeguards, and compassion in its treatment of the unborn child.
The Act allows abortion in cases where two doctors in good faith discern that this is necessary to prevent a grave risk to the mother’s life, physical health, or mental health. Yet to prevent the abuse of the last provision as is common in Britain, it requires the second doctor to be a psychiatric consultant. It also allows abortion after sexual assault, but also to prevent abuse of this provision it requires the formal provision of evidence.
Most importantly, for all abortions after 24 weeks, it is the legal duty of the hospital surgeon performing the abortion to do so “in such manner as is best calculated to preserve the life of the child” and “to take such other actions as is reasonable in all the circumstances to preserve the life of the child”. If a baby is born alive during any abortion then “the hospital surgeon shall be under a duty to take all reasonable steps to preserve the life of the child”.
The law also, however, has serious flaws. It allows abortion for foetal disability, allowing the targeting of babies in the womb simply because they are not fully abled. This institutionalises an ugly form of discrimination that our society has surely outgrown. It also possesses a conscience clause the language of which could well be challenged and reinterpreted to deny the rights of midwives and nurses to object to being involved with abortion, as it has in Britain.
Manx law therefore has positive aspects that should be retained, and negative aspects that should be reformed in keeping with the relatively compassionate nature of the island’s treatment of this subject so far. Unfortunately, in the last few months, a lobby has been set up that is trying to change the abortion laws of the Isle of Man in the wrong direction. They would like to see Manx law stripped of its special protections, and take the Isle of Man back to the outdated and unjust 1960s law that still pertains across.
In response to this, and to support a more equal and humane reform of the Manx abortion law, the Humanity and Equality in Abortion Reform (HEAR) campaign has been set up, to stand for the humanity, dignity, and rights, of both pregnant mothers and their unborn children. It proposes to Tynwald that they bolster support for women in unplanned pregnancy, repeal abortion for disability whilst providing the best prenatal care for parents who are given such a diagnosis for their baby, tighten conscience protections and strengthen mental health safeguards. These are the real caring alternatives to the callous and regressive proposals of the abortion lobby.
This petition is set up to support that cause, and to show the level of principled feeling that exists for a progressive reform of Manx abortion law. Please sign this in support of our campaign, and help us in championing the dignity and equal rights of women and children, before as well as after birth.
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