A British lawmaker whose son was born with clubfoot hopes to protect unborn babies like him who are targeted for discriminatory late-term abortions.
The Guardian reports Conservative MP Fiona Bruce’s legislation would prohibit late-term abortions for the minor, correctable conditions of cleft lip, cleft palate and clubfoot. She plans to present it to parliament on June 3.
The UK allows abortions for any reason up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. After that point, abortions are allowed if the mother’s health is at serious risk or the unborn baby has a severe fetal anomaly. However, “severe” is widely interpreted, and some mothers are shocked when doctors suggest late-term abortions for unborn babies with conditions like cleft lip, which is easily correctable with surgery.
Sophie Caldecott’s daughter was diagnosed with clubfoot during her 20th week of pregnancy, according to the report.
“My daughter is now six and you can’t tell that there was anything wrong with her feet or ankles now, thanks to very minor surgery in her first few months and physiotherapy,” Caldecott said. “But when the sonographer discovered the problem, she told my husband and me that we could have our money back for the scans, and implied it was likely we’d want an abortion.”
She refused, but, five weeks later, she was offered an abortion again. Caldecott said even though she had passed the 24-week abortion limit and her baby was viable, medical professionals suggested an abortion “as though my child had a severe and life-altering disability.”
Her story is just one of many. Parents frequently say they felt pressured to abort unborn babies with disabilities, including cleft lip, cleft palate and clubfoot.
After more than 30 years, Bruce said it is time for parliament to review abortion laws again. She said her son also was born with clubfoot, and surgery and therapy corrected it.
“It’s time our legislation caught up to reflect society’s positive change in attitudes towards those born with disabilities and medical advances in the intervening years,” Bruce said.
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Research and statistics show that unborn babies with these minor disabilities are targeted for abortions every year in the UK. Earlier this year, government statistics revealed that 223 unborn babies were aborted after 24 weeks of pregnancy in the past 10 years because of a cleft lip or palate.
However, it is widely accepted that the numbers likely are even higher.
In 2013, Eurocat, a European research group that focuses on disabilities, found that abortions for cleft lip and palate can be ten times more common than what is being reported.
According to its research, 157 unborn babies with cleft lip were aborted in England and Wales between 2006 and 2010. The UK reported only 14 between those years. Later, the British Department of Health admitted in a 2014 report that some disability abortions had been wrongly recorded.
Multiple efforts are under way in the UK to provide at least some protections for babies with disabilities prior to birth. Disability rights advocate Heidi Crowter, who has Down syndrome, is challenging the British Abortion Act of 1967 in a lawsuit because it allows discriminatory late-term abortions on unborn babies with Down syndrome.
But pro-abortion groups are attacking these efforts, claiming only an “extremely small number” of unborn babies are aborted after viability because of disabilities.
Clare Murphy, a spokesperson for one of the largest abortion chains in the UK, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, responded to Bruce’s bill: “While this bill has no chance of progressing, it is a deplorable attempt to weaponise an extremely small number of terminations and politicise the heartbreaking situation of women faced with making these decisions about what are often much longed-for pregnancies.”
Protecting unborn babies from discrimination and death is not deplorable. Killing unborn babies is, and it’s something society should work to end.