Government forcing disability abortion on Northern Ireland tells people with disabilities ‘you are better off dead’, says Lord Shinkwin

Lord Shinkwin accused a Government Bill which would force abortion on Northern Ireland of telling people with disabilities that they are “better off dead.”

In a debate in the House of Lords surrounding the Government’s attempt to force abortion on Northern Ireland, Lord Kevin Shinkwin asked whether the supporters of the abortion amendment had considered the message this Bill sends to people with disabilities: that they are “better off dead”.

Watch the video or read the speech below:

“Today, Northern Ireland is the safest place in the United Kingdom to be diagnosed with a disability. If the Bill is passed, that will change overnight on 21 October.

“I invite noble Lords to consider the Bill from the perspective of someone with Down’s syndrome. In England and Wales, the latest available figures show that 90% of human beings diagnosed with Down’s syndrome are aborted. Today, in Northern Ireland, disability-selective abortion for Down’s syndrome is not allowed. Instead, the culture is one of welcome and support for this disability. The latest figures from the Department of Health in Northern Ireland showed that while 52 children with Down’s syndrome were born in 2016, in the same year only one child from Northern Ireland with Down’s syndrome was aborted in England and Wales.

“I ask my noble friend the Minister: is that not a cause for celebration? Is it not to Northern Ireland’s immense credit that disability equality is actually respected ​there? He may be aware that next year will mark the 25th anniversary of the most important social justice milestone of the 20th century for disabled people: the Disability Discrimination Act. A Conservative Government introduced it. How does he reconcile the Act’s acknowledgement of the right of disabled human beings to be equal, to contribute to society and to be respected with the message of the Bill, which is that if you are born with a disability, as I was, you are better off dead? For that is its message to disabled human beings, their families and the people of Northern Ireland.

“That is why it is so sad that the party which swore to respect Northern Ireland is driving roughshod over the clearly expressed views of the majority of its people to impose lethal discrimination on grounds of disability and to treat human beings diagnosed with disability before birth as less equal. How terribly progressive, my Lords.

“I wonder who has the greater learning disability here: those who seem intent on denying the equal right to exist to those such as human beings with Down’s syndrome or those, especially in my party, who appear determined to unlearn the lessons of the Disability Discrimination Act.

“I was born disabled; I will die disabled. That is the hand I have been dealt. Indeed, it is the hand that most of us are likely to be dealt before our days are done. Are we seriously saying, as we near the end of the second decade of the 21st century, with all the amazing advances in medicine and technology, that we are so regressive, so insecure as a species, that we cannot cope with disability?

“Various commentators report that the Prime Minister wants to leave a strong legacy. I am sure I am not the only Member of your Lordships’ House who will remember her speech committing herself and her Government to ending burning injustices. I will therefore take the opportunity to urge her not to create a burning injustice by allowing the abortion of human beings diagnosed before birth with conditions such as mine to be part of that legacy. If she does, no one in my party should be surprised if disabled people and their families think that the Conservative Party hates us and believes that we would be better off dead.

“In conclusion, there is a clear choice to be made, and not just by my party. The choice is for disability equality or inequality. I implore all noble Lords who believe in genuine equality to stand with disabled human beings in Northern Ireland and respect them, and devolution, by supporting this amendment.”

Two-thirds Tory Councillors oppose Gov move to force abortion on Norther Ireland

New polling has revealed that two-thirds of Conservative councillors (67%) support abortion remaining a devolved matter for Northern Ireland, and believe that it should be up to politicians in Northern Ireland to decide whether to change the law on this issue. 

The ComRes poll is thought to be broadly representative of voting sentiment among grassroots Conservatives and indicates that there is very little support from Conservative party members to impose abortion on Northern Ireland from Westminster. 

The poll also showed the highest support for respecting devolution on this issue from the devolved regions (Wales and Scotland), with 86% supporting abortion being a devolved matter for politicians in Northern Ireland to decide.

The poll comes as Theresa May’s Government faces a major backlash from Northern Ireland against the Government’s plan to redraft the abortion clause in the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill to introduce an extreme change to abortion law, likely ushering into Northern Ireland the most extreme abortion law in Europe. 

This move appears to signal an end to the Conservative Party’s long-standing neutral policy in regard to abortion. It also appears to be a departure from the Government’s position on respecting devolution.

The polling also reflects sentiment among the public in Northern Ireland with previous polling showing that a strong majority of women (66%) reject interference from Westminster on this sensitive issue, agreeing that this was a decision for Northern Ireland. The strongest support among age groups surveyed came from the youngest age group, 18-34 year olds, with 70% agreeing that they did not want abortion law imposed on Northern Ireland from Westminster.

Clare McCarthy from Right To Life said:

“The new polling clearly shows that the Government scrapping their long-held position of neutrality on abortion and drafting secondary legislation to impose abortion on Northern Ireland will be very unpopular among the Conservative Party membership. This shows that there is very strong support for respecting devolution and that any changes in Northern Ireland’s abortion laws should be made in Northern Ireland, not imposed by Westminster. 

“Moreover, this polling echoes previous polling of Northern Irish people, with two-thirds of women rejecting interference from Westminster, believing that this is a decision for Northern Ireland.

“It is a reminder to the Government in Westminster that abortion remains a devolved issue in Northern Ireland. They have no mandate from the people of Northern Ireland to make any changes to Northern Ireland’s laws on abortion and all laws and policy regarding that issue should be decided by the people of Northern Ireland through their elected representatives.”

(Image credit: AdobeStock: Marco Govel)

Northern Irish? Please sign open letter to the PM today

Baroness O’Loan has today launched an open letter to the Prime Minister that highlights the constitutional abuses that have taken place resulting in Stella Creasy’s abortion amendment to the Northern Ireland Bill.

It calls on the Government to either withdraw the Bill recognising that the way it has been changed is unconstitutional or to back Baroness O’Loan’s amendment (23), which would prevent legislation from taking effect unless it was agreed by a majority of Northern Irish Assembly Members (MLAs).

PLEASE HELP GET NAMES ON THE LETTER

Baroness O’Loan has asked that as many people as possible from Northern Ireland sign the letter ahead of the Committee Stage of the Bill on Monday.

If you are from Northern Ireland, please click the button below to sign the letter.

If you are not from Northern Ireland, please help Baroness O’Loan get more names on the letter by asking friends and family in Northern Ireland to sign the letter.