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25,000 people call for end to abortion up to birth for disabilities including Down’s syndrome in NI

Over 25,000 people have signed a petition calling on political leaders in Northern Ireland to vote for a Bill which would prevent babies with disabilities including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot from being aborted up until birth.

The Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill will be voted on by Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) on Monday. 

The Bill seeks to amend the current Abortion (Northern Ireland) (No.2) Regulations 2020, which permit abortion up until birth based solely on the diagnosis of a disability including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip, cleft palate or club foot.

Strong support from the disability community

In February this year, Paul Givan MLA introduced the Severe Fetal Impairment (Abortion) Bill. Since then it has received a huge level of support with 1,608 people with Down’s syndrome and their families signing an open letter to the Assembly urging them to vote in favour of the bill.

On Thursday 11th March, disability rights campaigner, Heidi Crowter, has told the Health Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly that the abortion legislation in the region “tells me and other people with Down’s syndrome that we are worth less than those without disabilities”.

Crowter told the Committee: “The law in Great Britain, and now sadly the law in Northern Ireland, tells me and other people with Down’s syndrome that we are worth less than those without disabilities. That is why I want my voice to be heard and the laws to be fairer”.

“My husband also has Down’s Syndrome and I value him and I think society should too. The law makes me feel very sad it is saying that I, and people like me, may as well have not been born”.

Paul Givan MLA said: “This Bill provides the Assembly with the opportunity to amend the current regulation and to send a clear message to people like Heidi, with a condition like Down’s Syndrome, their families, friends and wider society, that Northern Ireland will not tolerate disability discrimination and they are equally valued”.

Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said: “The very large number of signatures on the petition demonstrates that there is widespread support for this important law change. 

“The discrimination against people with disabilities in the womb is disgraceful. That this would be written into law is even worse. It is no wonder that the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities have consistently criticised countries which provide abortion in a way that distinguishes between fetuses on the basis of disability, and has specifically suggested they amend abortion legislation to clarify that abortion should not be legal for disability reasons”

“Abortion is permitted up to the 24th week of gestation for babies without disabilities, but it is permitted up to birth for babies with disabilities. This double standard unambiguously reveals a deep prejudice against people with disabilities. Testimonies from families who have a child with Down’s syndrome also suggest that fear, based largely on a lack of understanding about the condition, is a significant driving force behind such legislation”.

“As the lives of people with Down’s syndrome and other disabilities illustrate, living with such a condition is no barrier to living a full life”.

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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