DUP MP Carla Lockhart has criticised the UK Government for imposing discriminatory abortion legislation on Northern Ireland, which allows babies prenatally diagnosed with Down’s syndrome to be aborted right up to birth.
Addressing the Minister for Northern Ireland, Robin Walker MP, in the House of Commons yesterday, the pro-life MP said the Government’s actions allow “disability discrimination within the womb that would otherwise be illegal outside of the womb.”
Her comments come ahead of October’s Down’s syndrome awareness month – a month Carla says we should use to “celebrate Down’s syndrome, raise awareness and promote inclusivity within our society”.
How Northern Ireland’s discriminatory abortion law came about
Last year, in the absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Assembly, politicians in Westminster voted to impose a new abortion regime on the province, despite all of the Northern Ireland MPs who were present voting against the proposals.
Despite the global coronavirus crisis and the Northern Ireland Assembly returning on 11 January 2020, the Conservative Government announced that they would proceed with imposing an extreme abortion regime on Northern Ireland on 31 March 2020.
The Conservative Government chose to take what Parliament asked them to impose on Northern Ireland and made it far worse. This has resulted in Northern Ireland having one of the most extreme abortion regimes in the world.
Under the new regulations, abortion is allowed up to the point of birth for all disabilities, including cleft lip, club foot and Down’s syndrome, whereas if the baby does not have a condition, there is a 24-week time limit.
In June, in each House’s final vote on the issue, both the House of Commons and House of Lords voted in favour of motions approving the Government’s decision to impose an extreme abortion regime on Northern Ireland.
This was despite a reconvened Northern Ireland Assembly passing a motion opposing the regulations. Additionally, across the two votes held, 75 of Northern Ireland’s 90 MLAs voted against the provisions in the regulations allowing discriminatory disability abortion up to birth.
‘Downright discrimination in the womb’
Carla has long been an outspoken critic of the UK Government’s decision to impose abortion on Northern Ireland, and is a supporter of Heidi Carter, the 25-year-old with Down’s syndrome who has launched a landmark legal challenge against the UK’s discriminatory abortion law.
Ahead of the vote in June, Carla and Heidi delivered a petition to the Prime Minister urging him not to push abortion on Northern Ireland against the will of its people.
Speaking just outside the gates of 10 Downing Street, in June, Heidi said: “I’m asking MPs to allow equality in the womb for every baby.
“I want this to happen because I’m someone who has Down’s Syndrome and I feel that the law makes me upset, it makes me feel like I’m better off dead.
“I think it sends a really negative message.”
She added: “I think the law which allows abortion up to birth for non-fatal disabilities such as mine is downright discrimination in the womb.”
‘Both lives matter’
Carla Lockhart MP who launched the petition with Baroness O’Loan said:
“Along with over 18,000 people from Northern Ireland who signed the petition, we want to send a clear message to the Government that the people of Northern Ireland do not want Westminster imposing these extreme abortion laws on them.
“Instead, we join with Heidi Crowter in saying ‘no’ to discriminatory disability-selective abortion.
“We join Heidi in saying both lives matter.”
New prenatal testing linked to increased abortion
The introduction of new prenatal screening tests has been linked to an increase in the number of Down’s syndrome babies aborted in the UK and around the world.
Figures published last year show that the number of babies born with Down’s syndrome in the UK has dropped by 30% in NHS hospitals that have introduced the new non-invasive prenatal tests.
Despite the possibility that prenatal testing is leading to discriminatory disability abortions, the UK Government announced last month that it will be proceeding with the procurement and rollout of a nationwide prenatal testing scheme for Down’s syndrome.
Scotland’s devolved health service announced this week they would also be rolling out the test.
Parents under pressure to terminate pregnancies
Last year, it was discovered that pregnant mothers who refuse to abort their children with Down’s syndrome are being pressured by some medical professionals to change their decision.
One mother, whose child is now four-years-old, said medical professionals told her they could leave her baby with Down’s syndrome to die if it was struggling after birth.
Another mum told how even at 38 weeks pregnant she was being offered an abortion.