UK statistics show 57 people travelled from Isle of Man for terminations in 2019

Figures released by the UK government Department of Health this week show that, despite the Isle of Man passing the Abortion Reform Act and providing a local service from the end of May 2019, 57 people still travelled to England for terminations last year.

The comparable 2018 figures show 95 people giving IOM addresses to UK clinics so a 2019 total of 57 is obviously encouraging but we don’t know whether these were all in the first 5 months of the year (before the local clinic was in place) or whether the IOM service, as laid down in the Abortion Reform Act 2019, has let some people down.

What CALM does know:

  • that the service took some time to be implemented and wasn’t ready to go on 24 May 2019
  • that few – if any – surgical abortions take place on the Island
  • that women presenting with pregnancies of just 9 weeks and 6 days are sent across to UK clinics (at the IOM tax payers expense) for medical abortions which are perfectly safe – pills which can be taken at home – up to at least 12 weeks.

The questions CALM would like answers to:

  1. How many terminations took place in the Isle of Man between 24 May and 31 December 2019?
  2. How many terminations have taken place on the Island in total since 24 May 2019?
  3. How many medical terminations authorised by the IOM Department of Health and Social Care took place in clinics in the UK when they could have been safely carried out on the Island?
  4. Is there adequate training of local health care professionals to enable a full abortion service – including surgical procedures – to be offered? And if not, why not?

In 2019 Tynwald congratulated itself of passing the most progressive abortion law in Europe – the Abortion Reform Act 2019 – but is the Isle of Man still exporting its ‘abortion problem’ to UK clinics to deal with?

Passing a law is not the same as implementing it

Our campaign started with a demonstration outside the Legislative Buildings in July 2016, referencing the 105 women who travelled to the UK for terminations in 2015, and we vowed to change the law. CALM lobbied prospective MHKs before the 2016 election. We spoke up in the media, our supporters shared their stories. We wrote to MHKs and MLCs asking them to support our campaign and show the way in compassionate abortion care. We sat through all the debates, listened to the arguments for and against a new law and were proud when not only did Tynwald revoke the old law, but also when the Isle of Man became the first place in the British Isles to decriminalise abortion.

We always knew that passing a law is not the same as implementing it – and when we witnessed the Abortion Reform Act 2019 being promulgated on Tywald Hill last year we promised our supporters that we would do our best to make sure the service promised is the service provided.

The Isle of Man Abortion Service MUST follow the terms of the law. It should NOT be sending women away for a procedure which can be carried out on Island, and can even take place at home.

We would like answers to our questions.

The 2020 figures (out in June 2021) will no doubt be skewed by the Coronovirus pandemic. CALM hopes that anyone seeking an abortion in the first half of this year will have been able to have one on the Island and, following the BPAS guidelines for home prescriptions, not even have had to go the local clinic. CALM also hopes that this provision will continue long after C-19 is a distant memory.


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