11-time Paralympian gold-medallist reveals pressure disabled people face to abort their babies

Wheelchair racing legend and eleven-time Paralympic gold medallist Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson has spoken out about the discrimination and pressure to abort that pregnant disabled athletes like her can face.

Grey-Thompson was a nine-time Paralympic gold medallist when she became pregnant with her daughter Carys in 2001 but later won two more gold medals.

She revealed to the Stumps, Wheels and Wobblies podcast the pressure she faced to abort her daughter: “The first thing I was offered at my first scan was a termination because people were like: ‘You should not have children.'”

“I lost count of the number of people who asked me how I got pregnant,” Grey-Thompson recalled. “People like you can’t do that.”

Grey-Thompson has spina bifida, a condition caused when a baby’s spine and spinal cord does not develop properly in the womb.

She said: “We had a discussion [with the medical staff] about if I was trying for babies and that individual had some quite complicated views on disability – [an attitude of] we might breed and we might spread.”

“I had to answer lots of questions about what you do if it’s disabled.

“I said I would make sure they have a really cool chair, not like the horrible chair I had until I was 15!”

When Paralympic cyclist Hannah Dines responded: “I was hoping you were going to say ‘but, that was 17 years ago and it’s all changed now’”.

However, one of her co-hosts, actress Ruth Madeley, said that her documentary on spina bifida revealed that “the first thing expectant mothers [of babies diagnosed with spina bifida] are offered is a termination and that is now”.

She added: “The abortion rate is still 80%, a lot of that is coming from a medical professional advising it”.

One in every 1,000 pregnancies is affected by a spine or brain defect.

Estimates have predicted that 80 percent of unborn babies diagnosed with spina bifida, each year, are aborted. However, pro-life campaigners are hopeful that now the surgery has been made routinely available on the NHS the number of unborn babies terminated each year will fall.

Grey-Thompson has previously spoken about terminating a disabled baby, saying “the reality is pregnancies are being terminated far more than before and disability is seen as a negative thing.”

On Sunday, it was revealed that the number of babies born with Down’s syndrome has dropped by 30% in NHS hospitals that have introduced new non-invasive prenatal tests.

Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said:

“Stories like Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson’s have unfortunately been commonplace for the past two decades. Pressuring disabled women to abort their babies, simply because they are disabled, shows an entire lack of compassion and care towards disabled people both in the womb and outside it.”

(Image credit: Tanni Grey-Thompson)

Down’s syndrome births drop 30% in hospitals where new screening tests rolled out

Figures published today show that the number of babies born with Down’s syndrome has dropped by 30% in NHS hospitals that have introduced new non-invasive prenatal tests.

The figures, released as a result of a number of Freedom of Information requests, show that among the 26 hospitals that provided the tests, there was a change in the birthrate for babies with Down’s syndrome from 1 in 956 births in 2013 to 1 in 1,368 in 2017.

Down’s syndrome advocates are calling on the Government to halt the roll-out of the new tests and undertake an inquiry into the impact that the tests are having on the birth numbers of babies with Down’s syndrome.

The Department of Health has previously admitted that no assessment was made of the impact that the roll-out of the new tests will have on the lives of people with Down’s syndrome. 

Collete Lloyd, whose daughter Katie, 22, has Down’s syndrome obtained the figures. She told The Times that she would struggle to explain to her daughter how the tests could be justified, saying:

“How would I tell her, ‘We have a test so that women can make a choice of whether they want to keep a baby like you or not’? It is not a pro-choice or pro-life thing at all. It is the woman saying: ‘I want a baby but I don’t want a baby like that.’”

Only four babies were born in Oxfordshire this year with the condition compared with 12 in 2015.

The release of the figures comes as a recent report revealed 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 three-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. Currently, abortion for disabilities including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot is legal right through to birth in England, Wales and Scotland, and 90% of babies with Down’s syndrome identified in the womb are aborted.

Catherine Robinson, spokesperson for Right To Life UK said:

“Our current law allows babies with Down’s syndrome to be aborted right through to birth. Already 90% of babies diagnosed in the womb with Down’s syndrome are aborted in the UK. The figures released today show that new non-invasive prenatal tests are likely to lead to even more babies who have Down’s syndrome being aborted. 

The Government should not be rolling out these tests if there is evidence that they are leading to more babies with Down’s syndrome being aborted. Now there is clear evidence this is the case, it’s time that the Government pulled the rollout.”

Lynn Murray, spokesperson for the Don’t Screen Us Out campaign said:

“As a mother of a 19-year-old daughter who has Down’s syndrome, I see every day the unique value she brings to our family and the positive impact she has on others around her.

The figures released today show that the fears of the Down’s syndrome community that rolling out these tests would lead to a large drop in the number of babies with Down’s syndrome were not unfounded.

We are calling on the Government to halt preparations to further roll-out the tests on the NHS immediately and to undertake an urgent inquiry into the impact that these tests are having on birth numbers of babies with Down’s syndrome. 

Press release – LibDem MP candidate who opposed sex-selective abortion deselected for wrong ‘values’

PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LibDem MP candidate who opposed sex-selective abortion deselected for wrong ‘values’

Right To Life UK are calling on the Liberal Democrats to declare whether there is a place for candidates who oppose sex-selective abortion in their party, following former Stoke-on-Trent South MP, Rob Fello, being deselected as a candidate for having the wrong ‘values’. 

During his 12-years as MP, Rob Flello voted on three bills or amendments relating to abortion. Polling shows his positions on each of these issues are supported by the vast majority of women.

  • September 2011 – Supported a bill to give woman considering abortion a legal right to independent counselling from a source that has no financial interest in her decision.
  • February 2015 – Supported an amendment to ban sex-selective abortion.
  • March 2017 – Opposed a bill to introduce abortion on demand, for any reason, up to birth to the UK.
    • Polling shows only 1% support of the population support introducing abortion up to birth.

Rob Flello also opposed the introduction of assisted suicide to the UK. In 2015, 330 MPs joined Rob Flello in opposing a Bill to introduce assisted suicide, many of whom were Liberal Democrat MPs. Only 118 MPs supported that Bill which was voted down at second reading.

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK Catherine Robinson said:

“We are now calling on the Liberal Democrats to declare whether there is a place for candidates who oppose sex-selective abortion and abortion up to birth in their party? How many LibDem MPs who voted with Rob Flello to oppose abortion up to birth and ban sex-selective abortion will be deselected for their wrong ‘values? These are not fringe viewpoints. These are views that polling shows the vast majority of the public and the vast majority of Liberal Democrat voters hold. 

ENDS

ComRes interviewed 2,008 British adults online between 12th and 14th May 2017. Data was weighted to be representative of all GB adults. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full data tables are here: https://www.comresglobal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Where-Do-They-Stand-Abortion-Survey-Data-Tables.pdf

Press release – Government announces proposed extreme abortion framework for NI, goes far beyond law in Eng/Wales

PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Government announces proposed extreme abortion framework for Northern Ireland, goes far beyond law in England and Wales

The Government has today launched a consultation on a proposed abortion framework for Northern Ireland which goes far beyond the existing law in England and Wales, and that of the Republic of Ireland.

The proposals go far beyond what the Government was required to do by the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019. The proposal seeks to introduce an abortion framework without many of the current legal safeguards provided by the Abortion Act in England and Wales. 

The proposed framework which is being consulted on includes the following:

  • De facto abortion on demand through to either 22 or 24 weeks (Section 2.2 – page 15)
    • Abortion would be available ‘provided grounds similar to those in England and Wales are met in relation to mental wellbeing grounds’.
    • In England and Wales, this wording has in practice allowed for de facto abortion on demand.
  • Any “registered healthcare professional” would be able to provide terminations (Section 2.5 – page 20)
    • In England and Wales, abortions can only be performed by a registered medical practitioner (doctor) and the Abortion Act requires the approval of two doctors before an abortion can be performed.
    • Under the proposal being consulted on, there is no requirement that a doctor performs the abortion and no requirement for the approval of two doctors before an abortion can be performed.
    • ‘Any other registered healthcare professional’ could include healthcare assistants, pharmacists, nurses, midwives, health visitors, dieticians, art therapists and hearing aid dispensers.
  • No legal restrictions on locations where abortions can take place (Section 2.6 – page 21)
    • In England and Wales, the Abortion Act (1967) currently restricts abortion to hospitals or places approved by the Secretary of State. This means that abortions are available in a limited number of approved locations.
    • Under the proposal being consulted on, abortion locations would not be limited in law to hospitals or places approved by the Secretary of State and it would be left to Northern Ireland Commissioners to decide where abortions could take place.
    • This could open up abortion locations to the home use of both abortion pills, pharmacies, GPs surgeries, school nurse clinics, mobile abortion clinics and ‘telemed’ abortions.
  • Abortion for disabilities for any reason up to birth, possibly including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot (Section 2.3 – page 17)
    • Abortion for disabilities available through to birth when “The fetus if born would suffer a severe impairment, including a mental or physical disability which is likely to significantly limit either the length or quality of the child’s life” 
    • In England and Wales, wording that has appeared similarly restrictive  (‘that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped’) has in practice allowed for abortion for disabilities including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot.  
  • Sex-selective abortion on demand through to 12 or 14 weeks (Section 2.2 – page 13)
    • Abortion on demand, without certification, through to 12 or 14 weeks would allow for sex-selective abortion to be available on-demand. 
    • There is also no specific provision banning sex-selective abortion through 22 or 24 weeks.
  • Conscientious objection protections are provided but would operate in a very different environment (Section 2.8 – page 26)
    • The proposal appears to seek to mirror legislation in England and Wales which does not provide protection for healthcare professionals undertaking ancillary, administrative and managerial tasks involved with an abortion procedure.
    • The proposed framework allows for a far wider group of health professionals beyond doctors to be involved with providing terminations in a far wider number of locations. This could mean that a far wider group of health professionals could be affected by the legislation and possibly involved in ancillary, administrative and managerial tasks where they are not provided protection.

The introduction of the new framework is proposed to take place on March 31st 2020. This will follow the current ‘limbo period’ in Northern Ireland, following the change in the law on October 22, where there is now no law protecting the unborn child through to 28-weeks. During this ‘limbo period’, there is only limited guidance from the Government, recommending how abortion access should be provided during this period.

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK Catherine Robinson said:

“The Government’s proposed abortion framework goes far beyond what the Government was required to do by the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019. 

The proposed framework drops many of the current legal safeguards provided by the Abortion Act in England and Wales. The proposals open up abortion provision to any healthcare professional, which could include pharmacists, nurses, midwives, healthcare assistants, art therapists and dieticians. It also drops the requirement that two doctors sign off on an abortion.

The proposal includes virtually no legal limit on the locations on where abortions can take place, potentially allowing for the home use of both abortion pills along with abortion provision in pharmacies, GPs surgeries, school nurse clinics, mobile abortion clinics and ‘telemed’ abortions.

In practice, abortion on demand would be available to either 22 or 24 weeks under mental health grounds. Abortion without certification would be available to either 12 or 14 weeks. This would allow sex-selective abortions to be available on-demand through this period with no specific provision banning sex-selective abortion through 22/24 weeks. 

The proposal would also see abortion for disabilities, including cleft lip, club foot and Down’s syndrome introduced to Northern Ireland, and possibly available right through to birth.

100,000 people in Northern Ireland are alive today because Northern Ireland did not accept the same abortion law that was introduced into Britain in 1967. This proposed abortion framework is a blatant attempt by the Government to further undermine the will of the people of Northern Ireland. It adds insult to injury after Westminster voted to impose new abortion laws on Northern Ireland and would likely lead to an even larger increase in the number of lives lost to abortion.”

ENDS

  • For additional quotes and media interviews contact 07907 272151 or email press@righttolife.org.uk 
  • For further information on Right To Life UK visit www.righttolife.org.uk
  • The full consultation document is available here.
  • The full report on the 100,000 lives figure quoted above is available here: https://bothlivesmatter.org/statistics   
  • Polling from ComRes shows that 66% of women and 70% of 18-34-year-olds in Northern Ireland rejected abortion law imposed on Northern Ireland from Westminster. The strongest support among age groups surveyed came from 18-34-year-olds, with 70% agreeing that they did not want abortion law imposed on Northern Ireland.
  • ComRes interviewed 1,013 Northern Irish adults online between 8th and 15th October 2018. Data was weighted to be representative of all Northern Irish adults. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full data tables are available here: https://www.comresglobal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/2018-Both-Lives-Matter.pdf