UK commission calls for action on abortion of disabled

Xavier Symons
27 Jul 2013
Reproduced with Permission

A parliamentary commission into abortion based on disability has called for radical changes to the UK abortion law. Under the current law an abortion can take place as late as 40 weeks if a child may be "severely disabled" when born.

The Commission of Inquiry into Abortion on the Grounds of Disability was established after alarming reports emergered in the press of children being aborted based on gender or minor defects. Conservative MP Fiona Bruce campaigned extensively for the enquiry.

In its final report, handed down earlier this week, the commission recommended "either reducing the upper time limit for abortions on the grounds of disability from birth to make it equal to the upper limit for able bodied babies or repealing Section 1(1)(d) [the discriminatory section] altogether."

Many of the report's recommendations aim to prevent the law from being applied to children with minor defects. It appears that some children have been aborted simply for having a cleft palate or clubfoot.

The commission also called for greater support of couples who wish to continue with their pregnancy:

"there is a need for consistent, balanced information, trained counsellors, increasing awareness of palliative care for newborns and comprehensive support from the medical profession whatever the parents' decision about their pregnancy".

Disability rights campaigner Mike Sullivan of Saving Downs was delighted. "Repealing that law would be the abolition of eugenic abortions against our people," he said. But pro-choice lobby groups have criticised the accuracy and objectivity of the report. British group Education for Choice complained about inadequate documentation and inappropriate use of emotive language.