New figures released by the NHS in Scotland have shown an increase in abortions where there is a risk of a baby being born disabled, as well as a disproportionate number performed on women from the most deprived areas.
Targeting the disabled
The 2016 abortion statistics, released on Tuesday, show the highest recorded number of abortions to date carried out under ground E, “substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped”. The number of babies aborted because of disability in 2016 was 216, an increase of 57% from the 2011 low of 136.
Of these, 75 were for chromosomal abnormalities (such as Down’s syndrome), 51 for other specific congenital anomalies (such as of the cardiovascular or urinary systems), and 49 for congenital anomalies of the nervous system. Page 24 of the report suggests that the increase of abortions for conditions such as Down’s syndrome is due to the rise in screening programmes for foetal anomaly.
John Deighan, the CEO of SPUC Scotland, said: “The new figures show us that there’s a contradiction between our commitment to equality for the disabled and a women’s ‘right to choose’. In Scotland, we rightly go to great lengths to accommodate people with a disability, yet as a society we are eradicating them before they are born, thus sending a bleak message to our disability community.”
Failing the marginalised
The new statistics also reveal abortions are disproportionately common in the most deprived areas of Scotland. In 2016, abortion rates for women in the most deprived areas were double that of those from the least deprived areas.
“Every abortion is a tragedy, however, the fact that poorer women are more likely to have an abortion highlights that the government has failed women by failing to provide a lack of viable alternatives,” Mr Deighan went on. “The minority pushing the abortion agenda are way out of step with the rest of society. SPUC Scotland call on the Scottish Government to provide a more consistent approach when it comes to more weak and vulnerable members of society, and not eliminate them in the womb.”
Overwhelmingly social abortions
98.2 % of abortions were carried out under Ground C, “the pregnancy has not exceeded its 24th week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman”, which is used for abortion on social grounds. The other 1.8% were carried out because of disability. None were listed as being to save the life of the mother, or to save her from severe permanent injury. See SPUC’s miscertification campaign.