"A group of women protested the current abortion legislation, by dressing as handmaids from Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale."
08 February 2018 12:00 AM

The Isle of Man: Where women have voted for 137 years but are still fighting for abortion

08 February 2018

By Katy Fallon

In 1881, the Isle of Man became the first parliament in the world to give women the vote in national elections. This year Manx women will have been able to vote for 137 years. In 2006, the island also marked another milestone in lowering the voting age to 16.

But in spite of progressive constitutional reforms, abortion legislation is still highly restrictive. Most Manx women still have to travel to the UK to get an abortion as it is only permitted in the case of rape or grave risk to the mother's life. Now, many are hoping that this will change with the introduction of a new bill.

Dr. Alex Allinson MHK, a former GP and member of Tynwald, the island's parliament, is behind the Abortion Reform Bill 2017, which had its second reading last week.

"This will correct the wrong done to women on the island since 1967," he says. "From when politicians here have turned a blind eye to local women having to cross to England for private abortions which could, and should have been provided here by our NHS."

A change in the law would mean that abortion up to 14 weeks would be available to every woman on the island regardless of financial circumstances.

"We've had estimates of it costing between £1,000-£2,000 for women to book their own travel and arrange their own accommodation," says Stephanie, the spokesperson for Calm (the Campaign for Abortion Law Modernisation) on the Isle of Man.

Stephanie's stories often feature Manx women too poor or too afraid to get the help they need.

"Abortion tablets are available online," she says. "They are safe if you get them from reputable websites but they are illegal on the Isle of Man and get confiscated if the customs people recognise the parcel. Even then if women are managing to get them, they are using the tablets at home and they just go to tell the doctors what they've done but they get no counselling and no support."

In spite of there being no prosecutions in recent years, women ordering pills online are still concerned. One woman received her second set of abortion pills after having her first batch confiscated by customs.

Next article

Related articles