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Bill to end disability-selective late abortion passes second reading

The House of Lords (PA)

A Bill which seeks to stop discrimination against disabled babies in the womb has passed its Second Reading in the House of Lords and will now proceed to the next legislative stage.

If successful, Lord Shinkwin’s 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.

During the debate today, Lord Shinkwin said: “Either we believe in equality or we do not. No-one can be more equal than others.”

Lord Shinkwin emphasised that the debate was not about the ethics of abortion but brining the abortion law into line with spirit of the Disability Discrimination Act.

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.”