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UK Parliamentary report: Reform Abortion Act to end discrimination against disabled babies

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LONDON, 18 July 2013 – A recently published report from the UK Parliament has called for a review of the Abortion Act and an end to the discrimination against unborn disabled children.

The report, the work of a cross-party Commission, states that the current legislation is outdated and allows for the termination of pregnancies involving disabled babies until the time of birth. It therefore recommends urgent reform.

The report presents a number of recommendations aimed at reforming the rules governing abortion on the grounds of disability and ending the wide disparities in how the Act is applied across the UK.

The Commission chair, Conservative backbench MP Fiona Bruce, stated, “It is time to review the moral, ethical, legal, and practical framework within which this provision of the Abortion Act operates and how the law applies to a fetus beyond the age of viability.”

Two potential avenues for reform are to reduce the upper time limit for abortion on the grounds of disability and to align the upper limit with that of able-bodied unborn babies. This would necessitate the repeal of Section 1(1)(d).

“It is recommended that Parliament consider at the very least the two main options for removing those elements which a majority of witnesses believe are discriminatory,” she said.

The Department of Health reports that in 2012, 2,692 abortions were carried out under the provisions of Ground E of the Abortion Act 1967. This represented a 17% increase over the previous year, with 160 of these abortions taking place after 24 weeks.

Some treatable conditions, such as cleft palate and club foot, were being used to justify abortion on the grounds of disability, a fact that concerned the Commission.

Furthermore, Down syndrome accounted for approximately one quarter (512) of all Ground E abortions. Approximately 90% of all unborn babies diagnosed with this condition were aborted.

Mike Sullivan, a prominent disability rights campaigner in New Zealand and the founder of the organisation Saving Downs, had called for a change in the UK law. He expressed satisfaction with the findings of the report.

“The repeal of this legislation would effectively abolish eugenic abortions against our people,” he stated. “Saving Downs advocates this position and we are pleased to see such a strong and just recommendation emerge from this inquiry.”

Sullivan observed that a change in the UK’s discriminatory legislation would represent a pivotal moment for the Down syndrome community in the UK. Furthermore, he postulated that it would likely have ripple effects in countries such as New Zealand and Australia, given that their screening and disability-selective abortion programmes mirror those of the UK.

Mrs. Bruce expressed the hope that the Commission’s findings would “initiate and inform a much-needed debate on this issue.”

Sullivan concluded that the recommendations would ultimately result in changes, and that this represented a significant and historic step towards achieving full social justice for the Down syndrome community.


Daniel Miller is responsible for nearly all of National Right to Life News' political writing.

With the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Daniel Miller developed a deep obsession with U.S. politics that has never let go of the political scientist. Whether it's the election of Joe Biden, the midterm elections in Congress, the abortion rights debate in the Supreme Court or the mudslinging in the primaries - Daniel Miller is happy to stay up late for you.

Daniel was born and raised in New York. After living in China, working for a news agency and another stint at a major news network, he now lives in Arizona with his two daughters.

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