Skip to content

Parliamentary commission reveals shock figures for disability abortions

Printer-friendly version

Approximately 90 per cent of unborn babies who are diagnosed with Down’s syndrome in England and Wales are aborted, a parliamentary commission has found.

Discrimination

The commission, chaired by MP Fiona Bruce, said that the current law on abortions for disability could be “discriminatory” and needed to be reviewed in light of equality laws and changing social attitudes to disability.

Currently, section 1(1)(d) of the Abortion Act 1967 permits a pregnancy to be terminated up to birth if prenatal screening reveals that there is a “substantial risk” that the child may be born “seriously handicapped”.   Abortions on other grounds can only be performed up to 24 weeks.

The commission, which heard evidence from medical bodies, campaign groups, doctors, lawyers and parents, concluded that approximately 90 per cent of children with a definite diagnosis of Down’s syndrome are aborted after prenatal testing. 

Cleft lip

In giving evidence to the commission, Professor Joan Morgan said that around seven terminations have taken place in the last decade solely for cleft lip, and five for cleft palate. 

The Christian Medical Fellowship suggested that the availability of routine prenatal screening "promotes the idea that it is part of responsible parenthood to avoid the birth of a disabled child."

The commission’s report also noted that the terms “substantial risk” and “seriously handicapped” were not defined by the law, and there was “no consensus” between doctors as to which abnormalities would warrant a termination.  

It heard that ambiguities in the Abortion Act were “causing the law to be applied in a haphazard fashion” by health professionals. 

A number of parents also felt that they were being “pushed towards an abortion without due consideration of the other options and that those parents who do decide to keep their child face discrimination.”

Fall foul

The commission concluded that the law on abortions for disability could fall foul of both the 2010 Equality Act and UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that a child “needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.”

It has recommended to Parliament that the upper limit for disability abortions should either be reduced to make it equal to the time limit for abortions on other grounds, or that section 1(1)(d) should be repealed altogether.

“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,” the report says.

“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.”

Sources:

Telegraph

Report on Inquiry into abortion on grounds of disability

Twitter

  • In case you missed it: Evidence shows that no less than 108 universities in the United Kingdom have actively censor… https://t.co/QeK5VIlUSC 8 hours 37 min ago
  • Breaking News: Two street preachers questioned over hate speech have all charges dropped - https://t.co/8gwYDGC4Cn https://t.co/6txuQDBOg2 9 hours 49 min ago
  • In the news: Trump proclaims day of religious freedom for all — including nuns and bakers https://t.co/DG8CLtLHIU https://t.co/U2J3hWsWKv 10 hours 21 min ago
  • Abort67 are in the Isle of Man campaigning for changes to the Abortion Law Reform Bill. If the bill is passed abort… https://t.co/Dy6TDPgc2U 11 hours 44 min ago
  • Poll: Liberalising the Gender Recognition Act in Scotland is the least wanted legislation that the Scottish Parliam… https://t.co/1rmcBomdp7 14 hours 41 min ago

Subscribe to our emails