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11-time Paralympian gold-medallist reveals pressure disabled people face to abort their babies

Wheelchair racing legend and eleven-time Paralympic gold medallist Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson has spoken out about the discrimination and pressure to abort that pregnant disabled athletes like her can face.

Grey-Thompson was a nine-time Paralympic gold medallist when she became pregnant with her daughter Carys in 2001 but later won two more gold medals.

She revealed to the Stumps, Wheels and Wobblies podcast the pressure she faced to abort her daughter: “The first thing I was offered at my first scan was a termination because people were like: ‘You should not have children.'”

“I lost count of the number of people who asked me how I got pregnant,” Grey-Thompson recalled. “People like you can’t do that.”

Grey-Thompson has spina bifida, a condition caused when a baby’s spine and spinal cord does not develop properly in the womb.

She said: “We had a discussion [with the medical staff] about if I was trying for babies and that individual had some quite complicated views on disability – [an attitude of] we might breed and we might spread.”

“I had to answer lots of questions about what you do if it’s disabled.

“I said I would make sure they have a really cool chair, not like the horrible chair I had until I was 15!”

When Paralympic cyclist Hannah Dines responded: “I was hoping you were going to say ‘but, that was 17 years ago and it’s all changed now’”.

However, one of her co-hosts, actress Ruth Madeley, said that her documentary on spina bifida revealed that “the first thing expectant mothers [of babies diagnosed with spina bifida] are offered is a termination and that is now”.

She added: “The abortion rate is still 80%, a lot of that is coming from a medical professional advising it”.

One in every 1,000 pregnancies is affected by a spine or brain defect.

Estimates have predicted that 80 percent of unborn babies diagnosed with spina bifida, each year, are aborted. However, pro-life campaigners are hopeful that now the surgery has been made routinely available on the NHS the number of unborn babies terminated each year will fall.

Grey-Thompson has previously spoken about terminating a disabled baby, saying “the reality is pregnancies are being terminated far more than before and disability is seen as a negative thing.”

On Sunday, it was revealed that the number of babies born with Down’s syndrome has dropped by 30% in NHS hospitals that have introduced new non-invasive prenatal tests.

Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said:

“Stories like Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson’s have unfortunately been commonplace for the past two decades. Pressuring disabled women to abort their babies, simply because they are disabled, shows an entire lack of compassion and care towards disabled people both in the womb and outside it.”

Help stop abortion up to birth for babies with disabilities including Down's syndrome & club foot

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Dear reader

In 2020, the UK Government imposed an extreme abortion regime on Northern Ireland, which included a provision that legalised abortion right up to birth for disabilties including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot.

A new Bill has been launched at the Northern Ireland assembly that will remove the current provision that allows abortion for ‘severe fetal impairment’.

It is under these grounds in the regulations that babies with disabilities including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot can currently be singled out for abortion in Northern Ireland because of their disability and can be aborted right up to birth.

Before the new abortion regime was imposed on Northern Ireland in 2020, disability-selective abortion for conditions such as Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot was not legal and there was a culture of welcoming and supporting people with these disabilities rather than eliminating them.

This is reflected directly in the latest figures (2016) from the Department of Health in Northern Ireland, which show that while there were 52 children born with Down’s syndrome in Northern Ireland, in the same year only 1 child from Northern Ireland with Down’s syndrome was aborted in England and Wales. 

This contrasts with the situation in the rest of the United Kingdom where disability-selective abortion has been legal since 1967.

The latest available figures show that 90% of children diagnosed with Down’s syndrome before birth are aborted in England and Wales.

We are, therefore, asking people like you to take 30 seconds of your time and add your support to the campaign to stop abortion up to birth for disabilities including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot in Northern Ireland.

If you live in Northern Ireland: 
Ask your MLAs to vote to stop abortion up to birth for disabilities including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot:

If you live outside Northern Ireland: 
Show your support by signing this petition in support of the Bill:

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Help stop abortion up to birth for babies with disabilities including Down's syndrome & club foot

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