Britain’s parliament has moved a step closer to outlawing late-term abortions for disabled children following concerns the practice is discriminatory.
Abortion is currently legal in Britain up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, although the 1967 Abortion Act allows disabled children to be aborted beyond that limit right up to birth.
Campaigners argue the provision is inherently discriminatory against disabled people and implies their lives are of less value.
Lord Shinkwin, who has introduced a bill that would stop the practice, 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.”
On Friday, The House of Lords allowed Lord Shinkwin’s bill to proceed to a committee of the whole house, bringing it one step closer to law.
The bill comes after a new test was approved for Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) than can detect with 99 per cent accuracy whether an unborn baby will have Down’s syndrome. Disability campaigners have warned the test could lead to many more children with Down’s syndrome being aborted.
Professor Sue Buckley, Director of Science and Research at Down’s Syndrome Education International, said: “This debate is long overdue. We don’t believe that a diagnosis of Down’s syndrome should be a reason for termination.
“Nobody has discussed it with adults with Down’s syndrome, many of whom can now read and understand the issues and realise that as a group there is a large proportion, particularly in the medical community, who think their lives are not worth living.
“There has never been a public ethical debate. I think there definitely ought to be a debate.”