MPs say disability abortion law needs urgent rethink

Thu, 18 Jul 2013

The law on abortion for disabled babies needs to be reviewed as it is outdated and could be discriminatory, according to a group of MPs and Peers.

A parliamentary commission has published a report which outlines views that the law is essentially eugenics, which is eliminating undesirable characteristics from society.

The group has called for Parliament to review the question of allowing abortion on the grounds of the baby being handicapped, given the changes to social attitudes on disability over recent years.

Risk

At the moment doctors can approve abortions up to full term if they think there is a “substantial risk” that the child will be seriously handicapped.

Last year, around 2,700 babies were aborted for this reason.

The commission said parents are being pushed into having an abortion if their baby is disabled, and in some cases for conditions which could be dealt with after birth such as club foot and cleft lip.

Abnormalities

A European register of congenital abnormalities found that 157 abortions for cleft lip and palete had taken place in the UK between 2006 and 2010.

The commission, chaired by Tory MP Fiona Bruce, heard from medical bodies, campaign groups, doctors, lawyers and parents.

The majority of those who gave evidence found abortion on disability grounds to be “discriminatory”.

Review

The report said: “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 foetus beyond the age of viability.”

“Given the changes in domestic and international law and societal attitudes in recent years which are influencing views on disability, we recommend that Parliament reviews the question of allowing abortion on the grounds of disability.”

The group argued that current practices could be in breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

This content requires the Adobe Flash Player. Download Adobe Flash Player here.