Abortion bill on Isle of Man raises multiple concerns, critics say
Amid efforts to legalize abortion on the Isle of Man, critics of a new abortion bill have spoken out in defense of human life, saying the proposal would introduce a number of dangers.
“Every abortion is an act of desperation,” stated Monsignor John Devine, Dean of the Catholic Church on the Isle of Man, in a letter to the island’s Chief Minister Howard Quayle, according to IOM Today.
“The Catholic Church wishes to be supportive of those who find themselves contemplating an abortion, whatever decision they take,” Devine continued, noting his overall concern with the new abortion bill on the island.
He noted his concern that the bill cites “'serious social grounds' or 'impairments like to limit either the length or quality of the child’s life’ as justification for a late abortion.”
“The former could be cited if an unplanned pregnancy was considered to be inconvenient,” the priest wrote. “The latter is already being used in the UK to abort children diagnosed with Down’s syndrome or even cleft palate, a condition routinely corrected surgically at a later date.”
The Abortion Reform Bill, which would allow elective abortion up to 14 weeks and up to 24 weeks if medical reasons were presented, was in the clauses stage at the House of Keys last week and has passed the first two initial readings.
Abortion policy on the the Isle of Man, a crown dependency located between England and Northern Ireland, is currently governed by the Termination of Pregnancy Act 1995, which allows abortion only in cases where the mother’s life is endangered or if the baby has a low survival rate.
Since 2011, about 40 abortions have been performed under the island’s current law.
Devine noted his concern with the proposed abortion provision, saying that “premature babies delivered at 24 weeks can now survive.”
Devine additionally distanced the Catholic Church from some ongoing reform protests around the island, which have included graphic images and “explicit material,” saying these demonstrations do not represent the Church.
Other critics of the reform, including Lord Brennan QC, said the bill would introduce other discrepancies that would include “profound consequences.”
Brennan’s first concern was the bill’s allowance for only one doctor to approve an abortion. This, he said, could open the door to certain abuses within the practice, and recommended that abortion should remain the decision of two physicians.
If the abortion bill passes, Brennan also said that other provisions need to be set in place that would protect against sex-selective abortions and abortions where the baby has a deformity or disability.
Jasvinder Sanghera, founder of the charitable organization Karma Nirvana, also advocated for more protections against sex-selective abortions on the island, noting that the new legislative provision could further endanger women in abusive situations.
“I think the failure to address sex selection and coercive abortion is a problem which I believe has to be addressed through amendments, because that in itself will send out a very direct, clear message,” Sanghere said, according to IOM Today.
Some other pro-life advocates said they have experienced discrimination amid the introduction of the abortion bill.
Sue Richardson was attending the second reading of the abortion reform bill when she was asked to remove her pro-life logo sweatshirt before entering the chamber.
“There were a lot of ladies and men dressed in red, the Handmaids colour, which is all right,” Richardson recalled, according to IOM Today.
“But when I reached security I was asked if I could take my sweatshirt with the LIFE logo off,” she continued, noting that security had been informed to not allow pro-life logos through.
Richardson noted her concern with the bias, saying that other attendees were allowed to showcase their stance on the issue.
According to the Humanity and Equality in Abortion Campaign, if the abortion reform bill is passed on the Isle of Man, it will represent the most permissive abortion legislation on all of the British Isles.