Labour leader candidate attacked for opposing abortion up to birth for Down’s syndrome

A Labour leadership candidate has come under attack from the party’s supporters on social media after it was revealed she does not support disability-selective abortion after the standard limit of 24 weeks.

Currently, disability-selective abortion, for conditions including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip is legal for any reason up to birth while the upper limit is 24 weeks if the baby has no disability. 

Rebecca Long-Bailey confirmed her position in her response to a series of questions from representatives of Salford’s Catholic cathedral during the 2019 election campaign. 

A spokesman for Long-Bailey has since ‘stressed’ to the Guardian that she “unequivocally supports a woman’s right to choose” and highlighted her vote in favour of in favour of imposing Europe’s most extreme abortion laws on Northern Ireland.

Asked by priests at Salford Cathedral if she would support the removal of this clause, Long-Bailey said:

“I personally do not agree with this position and agree with the words of the Disability Rights Commission that ‘the context in which parents choose whether to have a child should be one in which disability and non-disability are valued equally.’”

Criticism of Long-Bailey’s views fly in the face of public opinion and have been highlighted by international regulatory bodies. 

In 2017, UK polling found that the majority now feel that disability should not be a grounds for abortion at all, with only one in three people thinking it is acceptable to ban abortion for gender or race but allow it for disability.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC, previously the Disability Right Commission) have said: “The Section is offensive to many people; it reinforces negative stereotypes of disability… is incompatible with valuing disability and non-disability equally”.

The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has consistently criticised laws which differentiate between unborn babies on grounds of disability.

These concerns were also noted in a UK Initial Report on the CRPD, which stated under Article 10 – the right to life – “concerns were expressed around the approach to abortion in the UK, where disabled people have suggested a bias towards termination of pregnancies if a child is likely to be disabled”.

In 2013 a parliamentary inquiry into abortion for disability found the vast majority of those who gave evidence believed allowing abortion up to birth on the grounds of disability is discriminatory, contrary to the spirit of the Equality Act 2010 and affects wider public attitudes towards discrimination. The inquiry recommended Parliament reviews the question of allowing abortion on the grounds of disability and should consider repealing section 1(1)(d) of the Abortion Act which allows for it.

Lord Shinkwin, who has been disabled since birth, sought to change the legal limit for all terminations to 24 weeks in 2017 but his private member’s bill, which was supported by Disability Rights UK, ran out of time before progressing beyond the House of Lords.

Responding to a question on the 24-week time-limit for abortion and whether it should be reduced, Long-Bailey said that the Labour Party would consult on any changes to abortion regulations and that she would “play her part” in “ensuring that [the Catholic Church’s pro-life] views are heard.”

In the same questionnaire, Long-Bailey claimed she would “never contemplate abortion” but did reinstate Labour’s manifesto promise to “uphold women’s reproductive rights and decriminalise abortions.” 

She also indicated she would be supportive of ending maternity discrimination and would ban the unfair dismissal of pregnant women. “Labour will also revolutionise parents’ rights by increasing paid maternity leave from nine to 12 months, doubling paternity leave to four weeks and extending pregnancy protection,” she added.

While she has been absent from most other votes on abortion since she was first elected, in 2015, Long-Bailey voted in favour of imposing Europe’s most extreme abortion laws on Northern Ireland. 

In 2015, she joined a majority of 212 MPs in voting against a Bill to introduce assisted suicide in the UK. 

Long-Bailey is standing against Sir Keir Starmer, Lisa Nandy, Jess Philipps, Emily Thornberry. She received the second-highest number of nominations, with the backing of 33 Labour colleagues.

Jeremy Corbyn’s successor will be announced on 4 April. He is standing down after Labour lost its fourth general election in a row last month, suffering their worst electoral defeat since 1935. 

It comes after the party pledged plans to introduce abortion, for any reason, up to birth. 

Sadly, all five leadership candidates voted in favour of imposing Europe’s most extreme abortion law on Northern Ireland.

Our analysis will be published in full tomorrow. 

A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:

“It’s ridiculous to see outrage against a leadership candidate simply stating that they oppose aborting babies with conditions such as cleft lip, club and Down’s syndrome right through to birth. This is a mainstream position with strong support from disability rights groups and the wider population. 

“Polling shows that the majority of people feel that disability should not be a grounds for abortion at all. This demonstrates that the small but vocal group of people who are outraged about Rebecca Long Bailey’s position on disability abortion are totally out of touch.”

Three doctors on trial in Belgian euthanasia case draws attention to risks of assisted suicide laws

Three Belgian doctors are on trial this week accused of unlawfully poisoning a woman in the country’s first criminal case concerning euthanasia.

Tine Nys died surrounded by her family on 27 April 2010.

Her sisters, Lotte and Sophie, are adamant she was not incurably ill as Belgian law requires, but suffering from the heartache of a broken relationship.

Prosecutors argue that the 38-year-old had falsely claimed to be autistic in order to be approved for euthanasia, and had only been diagnosed with Asperger’s just two months before her death, but never received treatment for the condition.

They say the three doctors, whose names have not been made public never established her “suffering” as ‘incurable’, which is a requirement to be approved for euthanasia in Belgium.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia were first legalised in Belgium in 2002 for adults experiencing a “constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated.”

In 2014, the law was amended to include children experiencing constant and unbearable suffering which cannot be eased, and which will cause death in the short term”.

Since then individuals have been euthanised for depression, blindness and deafness, gender-identity and anorexia.

Prosecutors will then read the indictment on Friday before the three doctors, whose names are required for the euthanasia procedure are given a chance to speak next Monday. If the three are found guilty they could be sentenced to a lifetime in prison. They include the doctor who administered the lethal injection, Tine’s former general practitioner and a psychiatrist.

Tine’s sisters revealed the botched manner and lack of compassion from the doctor who administered Tine’s lethal injection.

Speaking to Flemish TV in 2016, they said: “He likened her death to that of a pet that is in pain and is having a shot.

“He also asked our father to hold the needle in her arm because he had forgotten to bring plasters. When she had died he asked our parents if they wanted to listen through the stethoscope to check her heart had actually stopped beating.”

In Belgium, there is now a renewed push for euthanasia to be available for those who are healthy but have decided they have a “fulfilled life”

The President of Belgium’s Liberal Party, Gwendolyn Rutten, told the Brussels Times: “We must be able to choose the right to die not only when we are suffering in an intolerable way but also when our lives are fulfilled and we request to do it explicitly, freely, independently and firmly.”

In 2018 there was a total of 2,357 reported assisted suicides, up from 2,309 in the previous year. Since 2010, there has been a 247% increase in just 8 years.

The country is currently considering euthanising a physically healthy 23-year-old over a mental health problem.

A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:

“While this case may be unprecedented, it not only highlights the lack of compassion in countries with assisted suicide and euthanasia laws but also draws attention to the risks and dangers of legalising assisted suicide and euthanasia.

“Tine Nys was a physically healthy woman with her future ahead of her. She should have been offered care and support to alleviate her short-term suffering.

“Assisted suicide clears the way for despair and hopelessness. Where hardship and suffering is, assisted suicide is allowed to take the place of care and compassion as a response”

The UK has rejected numerous attempts to legalise assisted suicide since the turn of the millennium. The most recent assisted suicide bill, in 2015, was defeated by 330 votes to 118, a majority of 212 votes.