Lord Kevin Shinkwin, a member of British Parliament, is very aware of the discrimination that people with disabilities face in society.
Shinkwin himself lives with brittle bone disease, a debilitating condition where bones can easily break. As a lawmaker, he is working to end one of the most brutal forms of discrimination against the disabled – abortion.
The Federalist reports Shinkwin spoke out last week against a United Kingdom law that allows babies with disabilities to be aborted through all nine months of pregnancy. In most other cases, the legal abortion limit is 24 weeks.
“I can see from the trends in abortion on grounds of disability that the writing is on the wall for people like me,” Shinkwin said during a debate in parliament. “People with congenital disabilities are facing extinction. If we were animals, perhaps we might qualify for protection as an endangered species. But we are only human beings with disabilities, so we do not.”
His bill, the Abortion (Disability Equality) Act, would end the abortion exception for disabled babies. In England, the 1967 Abortion Act legalized abortion up until viability and later when two physicians agree “that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.” Lord Shinkwin’s bill would strike this disability condition from the law.
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“Discrimination of the grounds of disability after birth is outlawed,” he said when he introduced the bill last spring. “Yet today legal and lethal discrimination on the grounds of disability is allowed up to birth by law.”
Last week, Shinkwin emphasized the importance of his bill in protecting people with disabilities from discriminatory abortion deaths.
He told parliament:
“Our Paralympians represented their country in Rio with pride. What was the essential qualification for them competing at Rio? Their disability. The country which applauded their success is the same country whose law regards that essential qualification for going to Rio—disability—as a reason they should die. How is that fair, is that right, is that logical? It is none of those things, which is why today I reflect on the remarkable impact that laws passed by your Lordships’ House have had on my life as a disabled person. It is why I ask myself: how could I not have faith in our common humanity? How could I not have faith in the truth that there is more that unites than divides us? And how could I not believe that your Lordships’ House will be true to itself and continue its noble fight for disability equality by passing this bill?”
According to British National Health System data, 3,213 babies were aborted under the clause in 2015, a 68 percent increase in the past decade. Abortions because of Down syndrome increased 10 percent from 2013 to 2014, while abortions because of a cleft lip/palate, a minor facial impairment, tripled in the past five years, according to the data.
“A 2014 Department of Health review identified that there is significant underreporting of disability-selective abortions and the numbers are likely to be much higher,” according to We’re All Equal, which supports the bill.
Last week, the bill passed its Committee Stage in the House of Lords.