Bill would end abortions on the grounds of disability

A Bill calling for disabled babies to be protected in the womb is due to have its second reading in the House of Lords this month.

The Abortion (Disability Equality) Act 2016 would change the law to prevent abortions taking place solely on the grounds of disability.

Currently in Great Britain, abortion is allowed up to 24 weeks, but up to birth if the child is disabled.


The Bill would remove all references to disability from the 1967 Abortion Act, which permits abortion if a baby is likely to be born with “such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped”.

It is being sponsored by Conservative Peer Lord Shinkwin, who suffers from brittle bone disease.

Speaking in the Lords last month, he praised it as a vital measure to tackle disability discrimination.

Disability discrimination, he said, has been outlawed for years “but for disability diagnosed before birth, discrimination remains enshrined in 2016 in the law of our land”.


He highlighted that 90 per cent of babies diagnosed with Down’s syndrome are aborted, and that this figure is likely to increase if a new Down’s screening test is approved by the Department of Health.

“It is one thing to eradicate disability discrimination”, he said, “It is an entirely different thing to eradicate disability itself”.

The Abortion (Disability Equality) Act 2016 will have its second reading in the House of Lords on 21 October. It will then progress through three further stages before being considered in the House of Commons.

Private Members’ Bills do not receive as much time in Parliament, meaning they are less likely to proceed through all the stages.


Last week actress Sally Phillips shared her experiences as a mother of a child with Down’s syndrome, ahead of the release of a BBC documentary.

Doctors told her that her son Olly might never walk or talk. But Phillips said he is now able to run, swim, ride a bike, dance and recite poetry.

She added: “If we deny someone the chance to be born because we’ve decided they won’t meet some predetermined measure of status or achievement, then we’ve failed to grasp what it means to be human.”

The documentary ‘A World Without Down’s Syndrome?’ will be shown tomorrow on BBC Two.

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