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Opinion

On the wrong side of history? Poland defends the disabled

Ann Farmer

The Telegraph reports that following a ruling by Poland’s supreme court that abortions for disability – which make up 98 per cent of all abortions – are unconstitutional, therefore abortion would be allowed solely for rape and incest, Polish police “used pepper spray and arrested 15 people during protests”; apparently, “attempts to tighten the 1993 abortion law have always been met with fierce and widespread opposition, especially from Polish women”, and in 2016, “nationwide mass protests inflicted a rare defeat on the Law and Justice government, forcing it to withdraw an anti-abortion law”.

Clearly, someone must have voted for Law and Justice, the country’s governing political party, but perhaps its supporters do not go on noisy, obstructive, violent demonstrations, which in recent years have become an increasing feature of abortion advocacy. 

However, elsewhere, Ann Furedi, chief executive of major UK abortion provider BPAS, warns that “[a]bortion has been effectively banned in Poland – and Britain isn’t safe either”, explaining ‘the wider impact’ of the Polish court making terminations in case of foetal abnormality illegal she says: “In the UK, the argument that here too abortion should not be available on grounds of, that is discriminatory and ‘eugenic’ has become increasingly accepted – not just by those, like the members of the Polish government, who oppose women’s right to abortion in principle”. She says that in “Britain, where abortion is available with relative ease” and where the 1967 Abortion Act set out “exceptions to prosecution”, it “remains a criminal offence”, maintaining: “To truly allow women to decide if, when, and with whom to have children, we need to strike down the laws that criminalise voluntary termination of pregnancy. We need to trust those who are pregnant to make a decision; answerable to no one except those they chose to involve.” She concludes: “Respect for women’s reproductive choice is a mark for how much a government trusts its female population. Whether we are in Poland or the UK, we need to make sure our politicians understand this.” 

Once again, Ms Furedi makes the (unopposed) case for abortion for any reason by dismantling all laws protecting mother and child. Her ‘equality’ approach would not only legalise eugenic abortion but sex-selective abortion, and would make it easier to obtain abortion in cases of poverty, coercion, and under-age sexual abuse; she would ‘equalise’ access to abortion by making it available for any reason, no questions asked, up to birth in every case. 

She insists that abortion for disability is nothing to do with prejudice against the disabled. However, she is betrayed by her own language – ‘Foetal abnormality’, ‘foetal anomaly’ – as she goes on: “So let’s keep it clear in our heads. When a woman chooses to end her own pregnancy where foetal abnormality is detected, it is absolutely not a discriminatory or eugenic decision. She is making a choice, like almost every other woman who requests an abortion, that she cannot continue the pregnancy in these circumstances; that it would better if this “child” were not born. She may make the decision because she thinks it is the best thing for her, or for her family. But it is a decision that she, herself, makes considering all things about her own situation”“In short: the decision is personal not political. Abortion is an individual solution to an individual problem and it should be available, a moral choice to be made by the person who is pregnant.”

Having redefined a mother as ‘the person who is pregnant’, and the unborn child – the ‘non-person’ – as a ‘problem’, Ms Furedi overlooks the fact that, as anyone who has disabled children would tell her, the hardest thing is trying to get help; this is their main problem, not wishing they could have ended the life of their child “while there was still time”. She maintains: “Never, in more than 20 years working for British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) have I heard of a woman saying she wanted an abortion because she thinks people with chromosome anomalies shouldn’t exist, or because she dislikes people with disabilities.” It would be most unlikely if she had, but most have been influenced by the negative attitude to disability of medical staff, and may have been repeatedly badgered until they ‘choose’ abortion

This negative attitude to disability is reflected in the poor medical treatment endured by disabled individuals,  and the medical enthusiasm – mainly among those who do not care for the old and disabled – for ‘assisted dying’, which merely means helping to end the lives of those who can’t do it themselves.  And in those places where assisted suicide has been legalised, attention is turning to ‘helping children to die’ (formerly known as infanticide). Ironically, once born, the most doughty champions of disabled children are their parents,  but it is much easier to scare expectant parents with gloomy tales of disability until they ‘choose’ abortion.

Ms Furedi repeats the feminist mantra that it is a “woman’s right to make her own decision about her own body”, but in the case of abortion, two bodies are involved, and one person’s choice is another person’s death sentence. And the downside of “letting women alone to make their own choice” is that once they have made that decision, they are on their own – literally, when taking the abortion pill – to cope with the terrible outcomes. All her version of ‘women’s equality’ does is impose inequality on those who are smaller and weaker.

Ms Furedi bemoans that “in the UK, the argument that here too abortion should not be available on grounds of foetal anomaly, that is discriminatory and ‘eugenic’ has become increasingly accepted.” She adds: the clause in the current law that allows a doctor to meet a woman’s abortion request when there is a risk of serious abnormality is sometimes opposed by people who insist they are otherwise ‘pro choice’”

Her complaints follow a large campaign by disability rights activists to remove discriminatory legislation which allows abortion up to birth, for babies prenatally diagnosed with a disability, whereas the general time limit for most babies who do not have disabilities is 24 weeks. In addition she notes that a significant cross-party group of MPs and peers have raised concern about abortions for cleft palate or Down’s Syndrome. 

Clearly Ms Furedi is worried by those who, while not being completely anti-abortion, feel uncomfortable about ending the lives of the neediest of babies up to birth; hopefully these people will take note of her response – to make it legal to abort all babies up to birth.

But if disability campaigners and members of Parliament cannot raise their voices on behalf of the voiceless, who will champion their right to life? Indeed, Ms Furedi also supports ‘exclusion zones’ around abortion clinics, which involve silencing opposition. 

Regarding human rights, she says that “Amnesty International, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Human Rights Watch, expressed concern over what they described as the government’s assault on women’s rights and the judiciary. The Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights has called Thursday ‘a sad day for women’s rights’”. Since the right to life from conception has been enshrined in international human rights law since 1948, this only goes to show that so-called ‘human rights’ bodies have become mere mouthpieces for the abortion campaign.

One hundred years ago the Poles were desperately trying to repel the Russian Bolsheviks from their homeland and, ironically, Communist Russia at that time introduced ‘liberal’ abortion law, mainly so women did not have to interrupt their work making tractors and driving lorries. And just over 80 years ago, Britain went to war against Nazi Germany in defence of Poland. During the Holocaust, Poland lost 11 million of her people – Jewish and non-Jewish – but now it seems that some in the UK would welcome the decimation of their future generations, whether disabled or able-bodied.

 At least in 1930 the eugenics sterilisation campaign did not know about the Nazi eugenics programme and the Holocaust, which were still in the future. We, on the other hand, do know where discriminatory language can lead.

Ms Furedi, who sees abortion as “not a problem but the solution to a problem”,    is also on record as saying that in allowing women to take abortion pills in their homes, “[t]he procedure becomes more normal”

She tries to give the impression that this ‘normalisation’ is a natural trend and that like King Canute, any who oppose it will be swept away by the tide of enlightened opinion – even in Poland. The author of The Moral Case for Abortion, Ms Furedi cannot seem to see anything immoral in ending the lives of the the weak and helpless for any reason at all, up to birth, and even puts the word child in inverted commas; but she is on the wrong side of history.

Ann Farmer, is a mother of three, grandmother of five and has a disability. She is based in Woodford Green, Essex; a poet, illustrator and writer.

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