Isle of Man becomes first place in British Isles to decriminalise abortion

Telegraph Reporters
The Isle of Man has become the first place in the British Isles to decriminalise abortion.   

The Isle of Man has become the first place in the British Isles to decriminalise abortion. 

The new law will allow abortion for any reason up to 14 weeks and in certain circumstances between 15 and 23 weeks. From 24 weeks until birth, abortion will be permitted when pregnancy would cause risk to the mother's life or if the baby when born would suffer serious impairment or die shortly after birth. 

The new law will make the Isle of Man - a self-governing region of the British Isles - the only part of the UK to have decriminalised abortion. Elsewhere, it is broadly legal but not entirely decriminalised.  

Those seeking abortion up to 14 weeks will not need the approval of two doctors, as is the case in England, Scotland and Wales, and midwives and pharmacists will be allowed to dispense abortion pills, as well as doctors.

Early medical abortion accounts for the majority of abortions across the UK, and it is hoped that enabling a wider range of medical professionals to provide the service will help ease pressure on GPs.

In England, Scotland and Wales, the Abortion Act 1967 allows legal access to the procedure in certain circumstances but it is still subject to criminal rather than medical regulation. 

In Northern Ireland, meanwhile, abortion remains illegal. 

Under the new legislation, the Isle of Man government will also have a legal obligation to offer women impartial counselling, and will include provision for "buffer zones" that will prevent protests around NHS premises and any premises where abortion services take place, including counselling. A recent review by Westminster concluded that buffer zones were not necessary in England, Scotland, and Wales. 

The Abortion Reform Bill was passed late last year with unanimous support my members of the House of Keys (the parliament of the Isle of Man) and has now received royal assent.