Ethicist: ‘Down’s babies need equal protection in law’

Unborn babies with Down’s syndrome should have equal protection from abortion, a senior ethicist has said.

Dr Gillian Wright, of the Scottish Council on Bioethics, says the law permitting abortion on the basis of disability is discriminatory and in marked contrast to the UK’s promotion of diversity and inclusion elsewhere.

In Britain, abortion is permitted up to 24 weeks for most reasons, but is available up to birth for disabilities including Down’s syndrome. Around 92 per cent of those diagnosed with the condition in Britain are aborted.

‘Innate worth’

Writing in The Herald newspaper, Dr Wright explained that the 24 week rule is on the grounds of ‘viability’ – the point at which a baby is deemed likely to survive if it is born.

But the ethicist argued, “Either the foetus deserves protection at 24 weeks or it does not. It should not be dependent on disability status.”

She added that the presence of the disability section in the Abortion Act “makes the statement that society gives the right to choose not to have a disabled child”.

Dr Wright concluded: “Disability rights are enshrined in international law. However, with abortion for Down Syndrome, we are making a deliberate choice on grounds of disability, rather than affirming the innate worth of a person.”

‘Unloved and unwanted’

Last month, Heidi Crowter, a 24-year-old with Down’s syndrome, launched a campaign to make the time limits equal at 24 weeks for those with disabilities and without.

Speaking on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme, she said: “I find it deeply offensive, because I am someone with the condition, and I would say that there is no difference between someone without Down’s syndrome and someone with Down’s syndrome.”

She added the law made her feel “unloved and unwanted”.

Also see:

Downs girl

Down’s syndrome campaigners call for equal protection from abortion

Down’s syndrome test leads to more abortions

Down’s syndrome people ‘endangered’

World Down’s Syndrome Day video saves lives

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