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Using evidence to guide abortion law reform on the Isle of Man
  1. Abigail R A Aiken1,2,
  2. Rebecca Gomperts3,
  3. Andrew James4
  1. 1 LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA
  2. 2 Population Research Center, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA
  3. 3 Women on Web International Foundation, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  4. 4 Department of Health & Social Care, London, England
  1. Correspondence to Dr Abigail R A Aiken, LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas, Austin, Texas 78713, USA; araa2{at}

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An opportunity for abortion policy reform is on the horizon for the Isle of Man, a self-governing British Crown dependency situated in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland. After almost 150 years of severe restrictions, the island’s Parliament, Tynwald, will shortly debate a new bill to allow Manx women widespread access to abortion services through the island’s healthcare system. In January 2017, Dr Alex Allinson, a general practitioner and a member of the lower branch of Tynwald, the House of Keys, was granted leave to introduce a private member’s bill on abortion. The bill would allow abortion on request up to 14 weeks gestation, or in the case of serious health concerns, serious social grounds, or severe fetal anomaly, up to 24 weeks gestation.1 The draft bill has undergone public consultation and is due to be considered by Tynwald in early 2018.1 The Isle of Man Minister for Health and Social Care, Kate Beecroft, called for any new legislation to be based on evidence.2 In light of this call, we consider how data on the demographics, circumstances and needs of Manx of women who seek abortions under the current law can inform the policy debate.

Current abortion policy on the Isle of Man

As a self-governing British Crown dependency, UK legislation does not automatically extend to the Isle of Man, although many of the island’s laws are similar to those in Great Britain. However, the 1967 Abortion Act, which legalised abortion in a wide range of circumstances, but did not decriminalise it, is a major exception. Until 1995, abortion on the Isle of Man was governed solely by a law dating from Victorian times: the 1872 Criminal Code, which rendered abortion illegal.3

Under the 1995 Termination of Pregnancy Act, abortion is allowed only in limited circumstances under a gestational age framework.4 …

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  • Contributors ARAA is an assistant professor of public affairs specialising in reproductive health policy. She has extensive experience in abortion policy analysis, most recently presenting evidence to the Oireachtas Committee examining Ireland’s Eighth Constitutional Amendment. RG is founder and director of the Women on Web International Foundation and has extensive expertise in abortion care provision under a wide variety of legal frameworks. AJ is a statistician at the Department of Health & Social Care England with extensive experience working with healthcare data. The data used in the article come from Women on Web (WoW), provided by RG, and from the DH, provided from publicly available reports and through a freedom of information request. All data were provided in fully de-identified format. ARAA devised the idea for the analysis. RG provided the de-identified data from Women on Web. AJ compiled the Department of Health and Social Care data with assistance from his colleagues Robert Betts and Mark Dionisio. ARAA conducted the statistical analyses and prepared the table and figure. All authors contributed to the interpretation of the data. ARAA wrote the first draft of the manuscript and all authors revised the first and subsequent drafts critically for intellectual content, and approved the final manuscript. All authors agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work. ARAA is the manuscript guarantor.

  • Funding This study was funded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (P2CHD042849).

  • Competing interests RG is Founder and Director of Women on Web.

  • Ethics approval University of Texas at Austin IRB.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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