In Press Release

STOP GENDERCIDE CONCERNED AT ISLE OF MAN ABORTION BILL THAT WOULD

LEGALISE SEX-SELECTIVE ABORTION

Stop Gendercide expresses deep concern towards the draft of a new Bill on the Isle of Man, which would legalise sex-selective abortion formally up to 14 weeks, but potentially also up to 24 weeks.

A draft Bill is currently under consultation in the Isle of Man, which intends to amend the island’s abortion laws. In an analysis of the Bill (also available in PDF format), Stop Gendercide have identified that if passed in its current form it would introduce abortion on demand for any reason up to 14 weeks. This would formally legalise sex-selective abortion for the first time in the British Isles.

Given that improved forms of prenatal testing can now detect foetal sex as early as 7 weeks, testing which is already available in private healthcare and will soon be implemented through the UK and extended to the Isle of Man, this would mean that sex-selective abortion would be both allowed and further enabled. The potential for such abuse is something already admitted by UK Government officials.

The Bill further seeks to introduce limited abortion up to 24 weeks, but uses clauses that are ill-defined and could introduce de facto abortion on demand up to that point also. This risks the possibility of legalised sex-selection right up to 24 weeks, especially given the procedural relaxation within the Bill that allows only one doctor to check that the woman presenting for abortion fits the legal criteria. This would make it easier for sex-selective abortions to take place under loosely-defined elements of the law, as has been shown to be possible in the UK.

With such a lax process, although the Bill limits abortion on the Isle of Man to Manx residents, the possibility of sex-selective ‘abortion tourism’ from the UK using fake Manx addresses would also be opened up.

Rani Bilkhu founder of Jeena International and spokesperson for Stop Gendercide, said:

“This is a very worrying development on the Isle of Man. For the last two years, we have been pointing to the experiences of the women who have gone through sex-selective abortions in the UK, and campaigned for a clarification of the law so that a clear message might be sent to doctors and communities throughout the country that this is unacceptable and illegal misogyny. For the Isle of Man to actually legalise sex-selection would send a terrible message and risk a kind of abortion tourism by the lax way the draft of the proposed law is constructed.

Whilst the Isle of Man has a far smaller black and minority ethnic (BME) population, including from those communities in which sex-selection is an issue, the proposed system could easily be abused either by Manx residents or visitors from the UK or elsewhere. We call on the Manx public and legislators to heed these concerns, and ensure that any reforms take place in such a way as to not enable the misogynistic abuse of sex-selective abortion”.

Jasvinder Sanghera, Founder of Karma Nirvana, said:

“Sex-selective abortion has to be tackled by work to change cultural attitudes in this area as well as a legal framework that explicitly outlaws the practice. We have here a draft law on the Isle of Man that would not only legalise sex-selective abortion, but would easily be abused in such a way that sex-selective abortion would be entirely practicable.

The provision in the law supposedly limiting this to Manx residents is in practice likely to be unenforceable. Pro-choice campaigners say that Manx women have mis-reported their address in order to gain abortions in England, and this could be abused in reverse. For women coerced into seeking a sex-selective abortion, using a false address and travelling to the Isle of Man would be practically easier than the alternatives, seeking an abortion in the UK where there is legal uncertainty around whether sex-selective abortions are legal or making the long trip back to India or another home country for a sex-selective abortion, as it is reported some people do.

Technology is now allowing earlier and earlier detection of foetal sex, and it would be easily possible for those who wish to discriminate against baby girls to do so up to 14 weeks if this Bill were passed in its current form. The loose construction of grounds upon which post-14 weeks abortions would be allowed to take place also allows for the potential of sex-selection up to 24 weeks.

We are calling on the Isle of Man public, and their Parliament, to heed the concerns not only of UNESCO’s International Bioethics Committee given improved pre-natal testing technology, but also those of us who have long experience campaigning against the sexist abuse of sex-selective abortion, and make sure that their laws do not enable sexist discrimination”.

ENDS

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