The report from the Commissioners of the UK Parliamentary Inquiry into Abortion on the Grounds of Disability has been released today.
It is a momentous and historic moment in our journey to social justice for our community. In the accompanying press release, the Commission of Inquiry says that:
“The UK Government must review the Abortion Act and end the discrimination against unborn disabled children.”
That is pretty clear and direct. This is a clear recognition from a Parliamentary Inquiry that disability selective abortion is discrimination. This is a defining moment for our people as a formal cross-party Commission of MPs and Peers hears and acknowledges the discrimination that has been carried out against our community. Much good will follow from this acknowledgment.
The Commission goes on to say that:
“The current legislation is out-dated, allowing abortion for disabled babies up to birth and is in urgent need of reform. “
The inquiry has recognised an urgent need for reform. Fantastic!
This is an outstanding outcome. This is a major opportunity for social justice for our community. We applaud Fiona Bruce MP, the Inquiry Chair, and the Commissioners for this most welcome and important commitment to stop discrimination against the disabled community.
Fiona Bruce goes on say in her press release:
“…Parliament should consider at the very least the two main options for removing those elements which a majority of witnesses believe are discriminatory – that is either reducing the upper time limit for abortions on the grounds of disability from birth to make it equal to the upper limit for able bodied babies or repealing Section 1(1)(d) altogether.”
Section 1(1)(d) of the Abortion Act provides for abortion up to birth for disabilities, including Down syndrome. Repealing that law would be the abolition of eugenic abortions against our people. Saving Downs advocates on this position and we are absolutely delighted to see such a strong and just recommendation emerge from this inquiry.
That discriminatory law is the foundation for national screening programmes for Down syndrome, Spina Bifida etc in the UK, NZ, Australia and most European countries. Those screening programmes target our community for disability selective abortion.
Such a change in law would be a defining moment for the Down syndrome community in the UK. It is also likely to have downstream effects in countries such as New Zealand and Australia, as the screening and disability selective abortion programmes in those two countries mirrors the UK ones.
The abolition of disability as a ground for abortion would ensure that the use of antenatal screening for Down syndrome would be restricted to providing life affirming care, another position that we advocate on.