The Abortion (Disability Equality) Act, introduced by disabled peer Lord Shinkwin, received its second reading in the House of Lords this afternoon. The bill aims to remove disability as a ground for abortion from the 1967 Act.
In his opening remarks, Lord Shinkwin said that according to the Department of Health’s “eugenic screening programme”, he, as a person with a severe disability, would be “better off dead”. He also lambasted the department’s “search and destroy” approach to screening, and said that for babies where disability is detected, the mother’s womb has become an increasingly dangerous place.
Many of the peers who spoke in the debate supported the bill. Baroness Nicholson spoke of the hypocrisy inherent in lauding Paralympic athletes while allowing discrimination before birth, and Baroness Stroud quoted parents who had been criticised by doctors for deciding to keep their baby.
However, Baroness Hayter, while expressing sympathy for people with disabilities, said that “restricting abortion care” was not the way to improve their lives.
In his closing remarks, Lord Shinkwin responded that the biggest hurdle for disabled people is attitudes, and questioned how many people with disabilities will be in the House of Lords in the future, and able to make a contribution, if the law is not changed.
Lord Shinkwin also called on the Health Secretary to meet with him and people with Down’s Syndrome and their families before introducing non-invasive prenatal screening on the NHS.
The whole debate can be watched here: https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/3c04ea69-45e3-440e-93a6-07976ac9e1bd