The House of Lords is to debate a Bill to end abortion on the grounds of disability in the UK.
Lord Shinkwin’s Bill will have its Second Reading in the Lords tomorrow, which means members of the House will have opportunity to debate the Bill.
If successful, the Abortion (Disability Equality) Bill will remove section 1(1)(d) from the 1967 Abortion Act, which allows for abortion on the grounds of disability up-to-birth. In the UK, disability-selective abortions are currently available right up to the moment of birth whereas in most cases, “healthy” babies cannot be aborted beyond 24 weeks.
When Lord Shinkwin first introduced his Bill, earlier this year, he said: “It is illegal for an unborn human being to have their life ended by abortion beyond 24 weeks, but if they have a disability their life can be ended right up to birth by law. Where is the consistency, the justice or the equality in that?
“If anyone thinks such obvious discrimination is acceptable, I respectfully invite them to imagine the outcry if the same were applied to skin colour or sexual orientation. Such discrimination would rightly be regarded as outrageous.”
There were 230 late term disability-selective abortions (between 24 weeks and birth) in 2015 – a 271% increase since 1995.
In 2014 the number of terminations for Down’s syndrome increased by more than 10% in the space of just 12 months as new screening techniques became available privately.
Meanwhile, abortions for cleft lip/palate, a minor facial impairment, have tripled in the last 5 years.
Lord Shinkwin’s Bill is backed by the We’re All Equal campaign, which includes disabled people, their families and supporters. The group wants the Prime Minister to commit now to making time for the Bill to complete its Lords stages so it can be voted on by MPs in the Commons.