More than 1,600 people with Down’s syndrome and their families have signed a letter to the Prime Minister urging him not to allow abortions for the condition in Northern Ireland.
Abortion has been imposed on the Province by politicians in Westminster, and a new legal framework is set to come into force by the end of March.
Abortion on the basis of disability was not permitted in Northern Ireland until October last year. The Government is currently considering responses to a consultation on the proposed framework.
‘Better off dead’
The plans would see abortion for disabilities, including Down’s syndrome, available up to birth.
In 2016, there were 52 children with Down’s syndrome born in the Province, with one baby from Northern Ireland aborted in England and Wales.
“People are deluded if they think this won’t have a negative impact on the Down’s syndrome community”.
In contrast, 90 per cent of babies diagnosed with Down’s syndrome before birth in England and Wales are killed in the womb.
Disabled peer Lord Shinkwin said that allowing abortion for conditions like Down’s syndrome in Northern Ireland would send the message that people born with a disability are “better off dead”.
Nicola Woods, whose seven-year-old son Daniel has Down’s syndrome, said: “People are deluded if they think this won’t have a negative impact on the Down’s syndrome community”.
She added: “People are keen to advocate for equality once babies are born, but not for the unborn child with a disability.
“Unborn children with disabilities are most vulnerable before they are born, where screening and abortion is the norm. Northern Ireland protects them and we want it to stay that way.”
Lynn Murray, a spokeswoman for Down’s syndrome charity Don’t Screen Us Out, called on the Government to “urgently clarify” that it will not introduce abortion for the condition.
She said: “All that is required is for the Government to commit to add a simple provision to the abortion framework that will clearly outline that abortion for Down’s syndrome will explicitly not be allowed.”
She added: “Our attitude towards people with disabilities has changed and our laws must reflect that.”
Last year, the Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service said she wants to see more radical late-term abortion laws passed in the UK.
Ann Furedi praised a New York law which effectively allows abortion up to birth for any reason in the state, calling the move “a breakthrough for choice”.
She said: “New York State has just signed into law an abortion-rights Bill that is close to what many of us have been campaigning for in the UK.”
“What we’d like in Britain is for politicians to accept what policymakers in New York have agreed”.