Secrets and Stigma: abortion in the Isle of Man

Isle of Man abortion research findings now available

Dr Rebecca Rowley PhD recently gave a public lecture about the results of her research into abortion in the Isle of Man.  Her lecture was filmed as part of the UCMTalks season and you can view it here:

If you’d rather read her presentation, here it is:

Unravelling the stigma, exposing the secrecy

The future – abortion as healthcare

Some key points from Dr Rowley’s research include:

  • “Restricting access to abortion not only effects the emotional and mental wellbeing of women, it can also endanger women’s physical health through unsafe abortion practices.”
  • The women interviewed in this research gave numerous reasons for not wanting to continue with their pregnancy but “a common theme was that having children was too important to not get right and therefore (they) knew that they were making the right choice.”
  • “Legal, accessible abortion = choice, control, safety, honesty with HCPs (healthcare professionals), appropriate medical care, support.”

And busting the myth that having an abortion causes mental health issues, Dr Rowley says,

“It must be stressed that negative psychological impacts, or difficult experiences, are not inevitable in abortion and are not the norm in countries where it is legal and accessible.  The lack of accessibility, combined with negative media portrayals of abortion, work together to create an environment where such negative outcomes are more likely for women. In the parts of the UK where abortion is accessible, there is no difference in physiological outcome for women who opt for abortion compared with those who decide to continue with an unwanted pregnancy.”

Dr Rowley concludes from her research that if abortion is seen as part of healthcare it would remove the stigma and secrecy which goes with making it almost impossible to access, as is currently the case in the Isle of Man.  It would also safeguard the health and wellbeing of anyone who has an abortion.








Dr Rowley’s research is one of very few studies into abortion in the Isle of Man, but it’s not the first

Dr Rowley begins by saying there has been very little research into abortion in the Isle of Man, but she was able to find some interesting figures in the Isle of Man Birth Cohort study carried out between 1990 and 2007 (conducted as part of the ELSPAC, a piece of longitudinal research) which showed

  • high rates of unplanned pregancies on the Island
  • the proportion of women attempting suicide in pregnancy (prior to the introduction of the 1995 Act) was eight times greater on the Island compared with Avon in the UK (the area chosen for the study as comparable to the IOM).

If you’d like to know more, you can find this research here:

Abortion Reform Bill 2017

As most supporters of abortion law reform in the Isle of Man know, Dr Allinson MHK’s draft Abortion Reform Bill will have its first reading in the House of Keys in early 2018.  Dr Allinson has considered the comments and suggestions made during the public consultation and made some changes to the first draft.  If you’d like to read the amended draft, here is the link.



Abortion Reform Bill 2017 to be presented to House of Keys in January

Dr Alex Allinson MHK has taken the responses to the public consultation into account with his publication of the full Bill to go before the House of Keys in January 2018.

The public response to Dr Allinson’s first draft was the biggest ever achieved by IOM Government on any subject, with over 3,500 individuals and organisations taking the opportunity to express their opinions and to make suggestions on how the draft Bill should be revised.  It is to the credit of Dr Allinson and Tynwald’s legal drafters that the revised version has been published ahead of its first reading in the House of Keys.

You can read the revised draft here: 

So what’s changed?

Below is the document published in conjunction with the Bill which details the changes made as a result of responses to the public consultation:   

And what’s missing?

CALM is concerned that despite more than 85% of respondents to the public consultation thinking that there should be legal protection to prevent demonstrations or protests, there is no mention of buffer zones around any facility providing abortion advice or treatment in the newly revised Bill.  This COULD include not just the hospital but also GP surgeries and any place offering counselling.

What can you do?

The Bill will go before the House of Keys for its first reading on 23rd January 2018 and for the second reading shortly afterwards, when we expect a lively and intelligent debate.  It is likely that MHKs will introduce amendments – and if, like CALM, you believe that one of these should include the provision of buffer zones, then please contact your MHK asking them to support Dr Allinson’s Abortion Reform Bill, and to also consider making buffer zones a legal requirement.

Follow this link to find your MHK and his or her contact details.