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)

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

Scottish mother pressured to have an abortion by doctors gives birth to healthy boy

A Scottish mother who was persistently pressured by doctors to have an abortion has given birth to her healthy son.

The mother, Lauren Webster, from North Lanarkshire, was told at a 13-week ultrasound scan that her unborn son had a ‘bladder obstruction’ and it was thought he could have Edwards syndrome – a serious genetic condition which means the child is unlikely to survive for very long outside of the womb. (Although in rare cases, people with Edwards syndrome have been known to survive to adulthood.)

The doctors monitored the development of Lauren’s baby closely and “[e]very week” the doctors asked “[her] if [she] wanted to terminate.”

Lauren told the doctors to stop asking her if she wanted an abortion, insisting that she wanted to keep her baby. The doctors however continued to ask especially after they became concerned about the possibility of the child developing Edwards syndrome.

Despite the unrelenting pressure from her doctors, the mother Lauren refused to give in, saying she had “a gut feeling” her baby would survive.

Doctors were “gobsmacked” when baby Ollie was born via caesarean section with no major health problems at all.

His bladder obstruction had resolved itself, and Edwards’ syndrome was ruled out at a scan.

Lauren said she wouldn’t want others in a similiar situation to be pressured into abortion.

“Everything they told me turned out not to have happened.”

This is not the first instance of mothers being pressured to have abortions when there is concern that the baby could be born with a disability. Last month, Natalie Halson was asked if she wanted an abortion ten times after her daughter was diagnosed with spina bifida in the womb. Nathalie resisted and her daughter had corrective spinal surgery after birth and is now flourishing.

Clare McCarthy of Right To Life UK said: “This case shows the immense pressure that mums are put under to abort their babies if they are diagnosed with a disability in the womb. It is now ‘routine procedure’ to be offered an abortion, but more so, it is expected that you would want an abortion.”

“Rather than being offered real treatment for her baby, this mother was asked time and time again if she would like to abort her child. It is a sad indictment of our healthcare system that rather than caring for both lives in a pregnancy and supporting a mother who wants to keep her baby, it is labelled as ‘routine procedure’ to pressure her to have an abortion. Secondly, the underlying attitude towards people with disabilities that this practice displays, is deeply discriminatory and unfair to both mother and unborn baby. ”

(Photo credit Adobe Stock:MoiraM)