Abortion (Cleft lip, cleft palate and club foot) Bill receives First Reading

A Bill which would change the law to clarify that cleft palate, cleft lip, cleft palate and lip, and club foot are not grounds for abortion in the UK has received a First Reading this afternoon. 

The Abortion (Cleft lip, cleft palate and club foot) Bill, which has cross-party support, was presented by Fiona Bruce MP shortly after today’s Prime Minister’s Questions and urgent questions. 

An early day motion supporting the Bill has also been launched by Carla Lockhart MP and she is encouraging MPs to sign the motion to show their support for the Bill. 

Both the Bill and early day motion have the support of a cross-party group of MPs from the UK Parliament’s three largest parties.

The issue of abortion for such minor and correctable conditions is of personal significance to Fiona as her son was born with club foot.

Decades after his club foot was corrected by two operations and a year of physiotherapy, Fiona’s son is now studying for a doctorate at Oxford.

Speaking to The Sun about her son, Fiona said: “Being born with this condition has not held my son back, rather the opposite. It has given him a depth of understanding about the value of every human life.

“Now in his mid-20s, he lives life to the full and no one would ever know, apart from the most experienced clinician in this field. It is hard to think that such a treatable disability could have deprived my son of life.”

She added: “This is a sensible law change that I am inviting all MPs, regardless of where they stand on the wider issue of abortion, to get behind and support.

“It has now been 30 years since Parliament properly reviewed our law on abortion for disability.

“Every child with one of these conditions deserves the same chance of life as my son. I also want to ensure that no parent has to go through any pressure to abort their baby for what is clearly a correctable condition.

“It’s time our legislation caught up to reflect society’s positive changes in attitudes towards those born with disabilities and medical advances in the intervening years.”

Currently, abortion is allowed up to birth for babies with disabilities. This has been interpreted to include cleft lip, cleft palate and club foot, meaning abortion is legal up to birth based solely on a primary diagnosis of one of these conditions.

All of these conditions can be easily corrected after birth but stories of women who have been offered abortion following the diagnosis of a cleft lip, cleft palate or club foot on their child have proliferated the media since the Bill was announced.

One such mother is Sophie Caldecott, who was offered abortions throughout her pregnancy after her 20-week scan showed her daughter had clubfoot. 

Sharing her story with the Guardian, Sophie said: “My daughter is now six and you can’t tell that there was anything wrong with her feet or ankles now, thanks to very minor surgery in her first few months and physiotherapy. But when the sonographer discovered the problem, she told my husband and me that we could have our money back for the scans, and implied it was likely we’d want an abortion.”

Sophie was then offered another abortion at her next scan, five weeks later. She commented: “On the one hand, medical professionals were reassuring me that this was a minor birth defect that could be easily corrected, yet on the other, I was being offered an abortion after the usual 24-week cut-off point as though my child had a severe and life-altering disability.”

Lauren Bolt, whose two-year-old daughter was born with a cleft lip and palate, told The Times it was “time legislation caught up to reflect society’s positive change in attitudes towards those born with disabilities, and medical advances”

David Smyth, a lawyer and charity boss who was born with a cleft lip, told the Belfast Telegraph: “It’s shocking babies can be aborted up to birth [for a cleft lip] – the law must change.” 

Official abortion statistics for England and Wales show that abortions are happening on the grounds that a baby has one of these conditions. According to the Department of Health & Social Care, seventy-five babies with either a cleft lip or cleft palate as their principal condition were aborted between 2011 and 2018. 

However due to underreporting the figures are likely to be much higher, for example a 2013 review by Eurocat showed 157 babies were aborted for cleft lip and palate in England and Wales between 2006 and 2010. However, the Department of Health & Social Care (DoHSC) recorded only 14 such abortions.

While the Government are reluctant to release data on club foot terminations, data reported by Eurocat showed that 205 babies with club foot were aborted in England and Wales between 2006 and 2010.

There is no shortage of testimonials from individuals who have been diagnosed with cleft lip, cleft palate or club foot and were not held back, including Steven Gerrard, Joaquin Phoenix, Kristi Yamaguchi and Carmit Bachar.

Polling from SavantaComRes shows that only one in three people think it is acceptable to ban abortion for gender or race but allow it for disability. The support for allowing disability-selective abortion for conditions such as club foot, cleft lip and cleft palate is likely even lower.

Right To Life UK has launched the Stand Up and Smile campaign and is encouraging members of the public to visit the campaign page at www.standupandsmile.org.uk where they can ask their MP to support the Bill.

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

“As a society, we should be empowering those with disabilities, and take great pride in the positive contribution they make to our country. To do this, we have a moral obligation to quash anything that perpetuates false and negative stereotypes towards those with a disability, and that is why we support the group of cross-party MPs who have brought forward this important Bill to help end disability-discrimination in the womb. 

People are shocked and horrified when they discover that abortion is permitted up to birth after the diagnosis of cleft lip, cleft palate, and clubfoot as the primary condition, believing it goes against the very fabric of what our country stands for today.   

Our abortion legislation is badly in need of reform to end this unjust discrimination, and we hope this Bill is successful in helping end this disability-discrimination.”

Action alert – Ask your MP to support the Abortion (Cleft lip, cleft palate and club foot) Bill

Stand up and smile campaign

You may have seen this morning in a number of media outlets that a cross-party group of MPs from the three largest parties in the UK Parliament have come together to launch the Abortion (Cleft Lip, Cleft Palate and Clubfoot) Bill.

The Bill will change the law to clarify that cleft palate, cleft lip, and clubfoot are not grounds for abortion in the UK.

This morning we have launched the Stand Up and Smile campaign to support this Bill and raise awareness about the wider issue of abortion being allowed up to birth for babies with disabilities.

Please click the button below to visit the campaign page and ask your MP to support the Abortion (Cleft Lip, Cleft Palate and Clubfoot) Bill. It only takes 30 seconds.

Once you have emailed your MP, please do let friends and family know to email their MP.

If you receive a reply from your MP confirming whether they will support the Bill or not, it would be very helpful, if you are comfortable with sharing it with us, to send on the reply to us. This will help us with knowing which MPs support the Bill.

Thank you for your help on this.

Cross-party group of MPs bring forward Bill to clarify cleft lip, cleft palate and club foot not grounds for abortion

A cross-party group of MPs from the three largest parties in the UK Parliament have come together to bring forward the Abortion (Cleft lip, cleft palate and club foot) Bill

The Bill would change the law to clarify that cleft palate, cleft lip, cleft palate and lip, and club foot are not grounds for abortion in the UK. This would mean that abortions could not occur when the primary diagnosed condition is cleft palate, cleft lip, cleft palate and lip, and club foot. 

Currently, abortion is allowed up to birth for babies with disabilities. This has been interpreted to include cleft lip, cleft palate and club foot, meaning abortion is legal up to birth based solely on a primary diagnosis of one of these conditions.

All of these conditions can be corrected. The main treatment to correct a cleft lip is an operation, which is usually done when a baby is 3 to 6 months, whereas an operation to repair a cleft palate is usually done at 6 to 12 months. Treatment for clubfoot is minimally invasive and is usually achieved using the Ponseti method.

The Bill is being led by Fiona Bruce MP. The issue is of personal significance to her, as her son was born with club foot.

Official abortion statistics for England and Wales show that abortions are happening on the grounds that a baby has one of these conditions. Due to underreporting these figures are likely significantly higher than what is being reported. 

Seventy-five babies with either a cleft lip or cleft palate as their principal condition were aborted between 2011 and 2018. Sadly, the figures are likely to be much higher, for example a 2013 review by Eurocat showed 157 babies were aborted for cleft lip and palate in England and Wales between 2006 and 2010. However, the Department of Health & Social Care (DoHSC) recorded only 14 such abortions.

While the Government are reluctant to release data on club foot terminations, data reported by Eurocat showed that 205 babies with club foot were aborted in England and Wales between 2006 and 2010.

There is no shortage of testimonials from individuals who have been diagnosed with cleft lip, cleft palate or club foot and were not held back, including Steven Gerrard, Joaquin Phoenix, Kristi Yamaguchi and Carmit Bachar.

Polling from SavantaComRes shows that only one in three people think it is acceptable to ban abortion for gender or race but allow it for disability. The support for allowing disability-selective abortion for conditions such as club foot, cleft lip and cleft palate is likely even lower.

Right To Life UK has today launched the Stand Up and Smile campaign and is encouraging members of the public to visit the campaign page at www.standupandsmile.org.uk where they can ask their MP to support the Bill.

Fiona Bruce MP, who is leading on the Bill and is MP for Congleton, said:

“The Bill will clarify that cleft lip, cleft palate and club foot are not grounds for abortion. This is a sensible law change that I am inviting all MPs, regardless of where they stand on the wider issue of abortion, to get behind and support. 

It’s now been 30 years since Parliament last properly reviewed our law on abortion for disability in 1990. It’s time our legislation caught up to reflect society’s positive change in attitudes towards those born with disabilities, and medical advances in the intervening years

My older son was born with a club foot. He had physiotherapy every day for the first year of his life and had two operations, but now no one would ever know, apart from the most experienced clinician in this field. So I know how such a condition can be corrected. It is hard to think that such a treatable disability could have deprived my son of life, which, now in his mid-20s, he lives to the full.

Being born with this condition has not held him back – rather the opposite. I think it has given him a depth of understanding about the value of every human life.

I am leading a cross-party group of MPs to bring this Bill forward because every child with one of these conditions deserves the same chance of life as my son. I also want to ensure that no parent has to go through any pressure to abort their baby for what is clearly a correctable condition.

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

“As a society, we should be empowering those with disabilities, and take great pride in the positive contribution they make to our country. To do this, we have a moral obligation to quash anything that perpetuates false and negative stereotypes towards those with a disability, and that is why we support the group of cross-party MPs who have brought forward this important Bill to help end disability-discrimination in the womb. 

People are shocked and horrified when they discover that abortion is permitted up to birth after the diagnosis of cleft lip, cleft palate, and clubfoot as the primary condition, believing it goes against the very fabric of what our country stands for today.   

Our abortion legislation is badly in need of reform to end this unjust discrimination, and we hope this Bill is successful in helping end this disability-discrimination.”

Boy bullied over dwarfism should have been aborted, social media ‘trolls’ say

A nine-year-old boy with dwarfism has been inundated with messages of support after his mother shared a video of his deep distress over being bullied.

However, a number of social media ‘trolls’ have responded by stating that the condition can be detected in the womb and his parents should have aborted him. 

“This is what bullying does,” said Yarraka Bayles as she filmed her son, Quaden, crying in the car after she picked him up from school on Wednesday. 

The schoolboy, who has achondroplasia – the most common type of dwarfism, told his mother “Give me a rope, I want to kill myself.”

The clip has been viewed tens of millions of times and has triggered an outpouring of support and #WeStandWithQuaden messages, including from celebrities such as actor Hugh Jackman.

Sadly, not all messages have been supportive.

A number of now-deleted social media messages can be summarised by the following tweet, in which one user said “dwarfism can be detected in the 3rd trimester. If the parents aborted him, like they should have done, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Upon being asked whether he was being serious, the Twitter user responded: “It’s crazy that people allow their children to be born with disabilities. Down’s syndrome can be detected too and yet parents still choose to go through with the pregnancy.”

These views are tragically reminiscent of those shared by prominent author and scientist Richard Dawkins and many of those who say they are ‘pro-choice’.

In response to a woman who had tweeted the admission: “I honestly don’t know what I would do if I were pregnant with a kid with Down syndrome,” Dawkins replied “Abort it and try again.”

“It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice,” he added.

While shocking, these views are echoed through wider society.

In England & Wales, abortion is routinely offered to parents that are expecting a baby who has the most common form of dwarfism known as osteochondrodysplasia are routinely offered terminations and many go onto to abort the babies.

Similarly, government statistics show that where Down’s syndrome has been discovered in the womb over 90% of women choose to abort the child.

Furthermore, the number of abortions performed on unborn babies with cleft lip and palate has accelerated in recent years – abortions for other disabilities are not released by the Government in published statistics.

Official figures show that the number of terminations for those with the condition has more than tripled, from 4 in 2012 to an all-time high of 15 in 2018.

Since 2011, 75 unborn babies have been aborted because they had a cleft lip and palate.

However, findings from a European register have revealed that abortions for cleft lip and palate can be over ten times more common than what is being reported.

Eurocat, which was set up to register congenital abnormalities across 23 countries, found that 157 unborn babies, with the condition, were aborted in England and Wales between 2006 and 2010. The Department of Health only recorded 14 such abortions.

Joan Morris, national coordinator for Eurocat and professor of medical statistics at Queen Mary, University of London, said the group also found the number of babies aborted in 2010 for Down’s Syndrome was nearly double that recorded officially – 886 compared to 482.

In the UK, there is also inequality in abortion law which permits abortion up to birth for babies diagnosed with a disability and 24 weeks gestation for those without.

This could also be the case in Northern Ireland, where the Conservative Government’s proposed abortion framework will allow babies with disabilities to be aborted up to birth.

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

“Why are persons with cleft lip, club foot, Down’s syndrome, dwarfism and other disabilities bullied and ‘screened out’ instead of accepted by society? What message is conveyed to society when babies with these conditions are aborted?

#WeStandWithQuaden as a society we should be empowering those with disabilities, and take pride in the positive contribution they make to our country.

The Conservative Government, however, undermine this objective by indicating they plan to introduce abortions solely based on the unborn child being diagnosed with a disability up to birth in Northern Ireland.

To ensure that those born with disabilities feel valued members of British society, we urge the UK Government to reverse their plans to introduce disability-selective abortion up to birth in Northern Ireland.”