A new Bill has been introduced in Stormont today to end the abortion of children on grounds of disability.
Currently, the law permits abortion up to birth in cases of ‘severe foetal impairment’, where “if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental impairment as to be seriously disabled”.
In the rest of the UK, similar wording has been used to justify aborting children with Down’s syndrome, and even cleft palate, a very treatable condition.
The proposed amendment to the Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020 has been brought forward by Paul Givan MLA.
He said: “The current law tells those with disabilities that they are worth less than other people, their contribution is less valuable, their lives less important, less full”.
He added: “It invites us to view those with disabilities as less deserving of the protection of the law. The idea that Down’s syndrome is some huge problem that should be addressed by abortion is chilling.
“You don’t have to look far to see the full lives those with disabilities lead – they enrich our communities and families.”
The Bill has been welcomed by Down’s syndrome campaigners, such as Heidi Crowter, who lives with the condition.
She said: “This bill that allows abortion up to birth in Northern Ireland makes me feel that I am not as valued as anyone else. Maybe people are even told that living with Down’s syndrome is too hard, but research confirms that people with Down’s syndrome and their families are happy with their lives.”
I realised I had a baby and not just a diagnosis
Laura Denny, whose son Nathan has the condition, said: “It wasn’t until my son Nathan was in my arms that I realised I had a baby and not just a diagnosis.
“Termination was suggested to me in my pregnancy and I will never forgive myself for having considered it when I was given no hope for my baby. After a very turbulent pregnancy with Nathan and not a lot of medical support, we are hoping to raise awareness and challenge preconceptions of having a child with Down’s syndrome.”