Babies with Down’s syndrome could be protected under proposed pro-life law in Poland

Poland’s parliament will consider pro-life legislation this week seeking to protect unborn babies from disability-selective abortion.

Unlike most of Europe, Poland protects unborn babies from abortion in most circumstances. Terminations are only permissible after rape or incest, if the mother’s life is at risk, or in cases of foetal abnormality – including Down’s syndrome.

The proposed legislation would remove the last provision and protect unborn babies from discriminatory disability-selective abortions.

Polling within the country has revealed there is strong support for pro-life measures in the country. A CBOS poll found that 75% of Polish people think abortion is “always wrong and can never be justified”. Meanwhile, only 7% thought there was “nothing wrong with it and could always be justified”.

Additionally, the proposed legislation comes from a Citizens’ Initiative which received support from over 830,000 Polish residents, indicating further strong support for a change in law.

Under Polish law, the parliament which formed following the October 2019 election, has a legal duty to consider any Citizens’ Initiative bills which receive over 100,000 signatures within 6 months of its formation – in this case by May 2020.

However, it is unclear how much support the ruling Law and Justice party will give the Bill despite it being submitted by one of their own MPs, Elzbieta Witek.

In 2016, the Law and Justice party initially supported a similar Citizens’ Initiative but then withdrew its support following protests from abortion activists.

Though the bill has strong support from the public, pro-life campaigners are wary that pressure from abortion activist groups pushing back aggressively to keep eugenic disability-selective abortions legal could see the Law and Justice party withdraw their support yet again.

A pro-abortion petition against the bill has signatures from 170 MPs, MEPs and senators from 24 European countries. However, only nine of the signatories are lawmakers from Poland.

President Andrzej Duda has indicated he will sign the Bill into law telling Polish publication Niedziela in a recent interview: “I believe that killing children with disabilities is simply murder. If a project opposing this issue will find itself on my desk, I will certainly sign it.”

Baby girl who had surgery in the womb celebrates first birthday, but abortion prejudices remain

A baby girl who had pioneering spina bifida surgery whilst still being in her mother’s womb has celebrated her first birthday at home.

After diagnosing Elouise with the condition last year, doctors offered her parents a termination saying the outcome was “bleak”.

Her parents, Kieron and Bethan Simpson, refused to have an abortion and now Elouise, who is described as “happy and smiley” by her mother, is thriving.

The Simpsons were overjoyed when they found out they were expecting a baby, but were left disheartened when a midwife discovered their baby had a disability during the 20-week scan.

However, two days later, a specialist at University College London Hospitals (UCLH) told the couple about the possibility of a ground-breaking new surgery.

“There was a bit of hope in that darkness,” Bethan said.

The mental health nurse underwent a four-hour operation at 25 weeks, during which her womb was opened and a series of tiny stitches were used to close the gap in Elouise’s spine.

Bethan and Elouise were among the first in the UK to undergo the procedure in January 2019. The successful surgery was funded by a charitable trust between UCLH and Great Ormond Street Hospital, before the NHS made it routinely available in April last year.

Bethan said her daughter’s regular progress checks had been postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak but said Elouise is developing normally and is thriving at home.

She told the BBC: “We certainly didn’t expect we’d be marking today in the middle of a pandemic.”

The couple say their priority now is to “shield” Elouise while keeping home life “normal and fun.”

Bethan also raised concerns that pregnant women are being misinformed on spina bifida.

“Since becoming a mum I’ve had the chance to reflect on that traumatic time. My only option was to fight. But most importantly, it was about being informed.”

“There is a lot of negative information around spina bifida.”

“Without being fully informed as parents, Elouise would not be where she is now.”

Her concerns were shared by a mother who described the relentless pressure she faced to have an abortion after doctors diagnosed her baby with spina bifida last year.

Natalie Halson, who refused an abortion ten times, said doctors “made out like an abortion was my only option and explained that if I went ahead with the pregnancy my baby would be wheelchair bound and have no quality of life.”

“When I got off the phone I went and did tonnes of research and found out that there were options for my little girl – I felt suddenly really angry that they had made out I had none.”

Similar concerns have been raised by parents of children with Down’s syndrome.

A survey of over 1,400 parents revealed many are being misinformed and misled over the condition and in some cases are being pressured into abortion only days away from giving birth.

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.

Under UK legislation, babies affected by Down’s syndrome and spina bifida can be aborted right up to birth.

This includes Northern Ireland, where an extreme abortion law has been imposed on the province.

In England and Wales – where abortion is available up until birth if a baby has a disability – people with disabilities are unjustly and disproportionately targeted by abortion legislation.

The latest available figures show that 90% of children diagnosed with Down’s syndrome before birth are aborted in England and Wales.

Additionally, estimates predict 80% of unborn babies diagnosed with spina bifida, each year, are aborted.

Northern Ireland had a very different approach and embraced a culture of welcoming and supporting people with this disability rather than eliminating them.

This is reflected directly in the latest figures (2016) from the Department of Health in Northern Ireland, which show that while there were 52 children born with Down’s syndrome, in the same year, only 1 child from Northern Ireland with Down’s syndrome was aborted in England and Wales.

Northern Ireland MLAs have called for an opportunity to introduce new legislation to repeal the new extreme abortion regime.

Additionally, Right To Life UK has launched its Save Lives: Repeal campaign urging Northern Ireland’s politicians to save lives by repealing the extreme abortion regime.

A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson has said: “The revelations of women who experience daily the lives of those with Down’s syndrome, spina bifida and other disabilities should be listened to.”

“Currently, women are making life or death decisions influenced by outdated and prejudiced views on disability.

“Expectant women are sometimes not given accurate information about the reality of life with these conditions and  there are stories of doctors suggesting ‘abortion is the only option’.” 

“We call on MLAs in Northern Ireland to save lives by bringing forward legislation as soon as possible to repeal the extreme abortion regime which allows for disability-selective abortion right up to birth.”

Scottish mothers join growing support for legal challenge to UK’s discriminatory abortion law

Mothers of children born with Down’s syndrome have spoken out in horror over the UK’s discriminatory law, which singles out babies with the condition and allows abortion up to birth.

Currently abortion is available up to birth in England, Wales and Scotland, if the baby has a disability – including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot. This is compared to a 24 week time limit for babies without a disability. 

Thousands of people are now supporting Heidi Crowter, a young woman with Down’s syndrome, as she launches a legal challenge against the UK Government to prevent them from singling out disabled babies for abortion.

Stacey Corrigan, mother to six-year-old Daniel who has Down’s syndrome, told the Daily Record she is “horrified” at the current abortion law.

She said: “How can that be legal? It’s like murder…

“There are premature babies who are born at 25 weeks and survive and grow to be healthy and happy, yet if your baby has Down’s syndrome it’s ok to terminate immediately before giving birth. It is just wrong.”

Stacey and her fiancé Colin Murray say Daniel is the best thing to ever happen to them and are supporting Heidi Crowter’s legal challenge.

Stacey added: “Daniel is an amazing wee boy. He goes to school, loves all the same things every other kid loves, he’s happy and funny. To think that someone could be in a position where they have carried a child like Daniel and are offered the chance to terminate so far on is just horrifying.”

Brenda Cook, whose 12-year-old daughter Brooke Cormack-Cook has the condition, says the law is archaic and needs to change immediately.

She said: “I think it’s quite shocking. There are some disabilities which aren’t visible or don’t get diagnosed until the child is older, so where do you draw the line? It’s something you would expect from the fifties or sixties. It’s out of date and it needs to be changed.

“Brooke is a wonderful wee girl. She loves life and is the centre of my world. I find it totally offensive as the mother of a child with Down’s syndrome that this is still legal. It’s disgusting and cruel to suggest that our children are not good enough for this earth.”

Máire Brady, mother to nine-month-old Aidan who has Down’s syndrome, says the “the law is not fit for purpose; worse than that, it is discriminatory, inflammatory and barbaric.”

In a blog post addressed to the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, she adds: “By not addressing this issue [the discriminatory abortion law] properly, you are saying my beautiful baby boy, Aidan, is worth less than his brother. That he is not as valuable. By shutting down debate under the guise of women’s choices, you are taking away the voice of people like my son, and you are disenfranchising them.

“Giving him equal rights to his brother is not eroding women’s choices, it’s just giving him equal rights. He is Aidan and he is equally worthy. For these reasons, I’m with Heidi.”

Heidi’s legal challenge has generated widespread support from those with first-hand experience of Down’s syndrome, pro-life campaigners, disability advocates and more.

Over 3,500,000 people have watched Heidi tell Channel 5 the current law is “deeply offensive” and many more have seen her tell the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme that the current law makes her feel “unloved and unwanted”.

Heidi’s campaign has been shared tens of thousands of times on social media with people adding #ImWithHeidi to their posts.

In less than a week, over £20,000 has been raised to help towards the cost of her legal fees.

Mothers of babies with Down’s syndrome pressured to abort, Australian disability inquiry hears

The mothers of children with Down’s syndrome are revealing the pressure they are put under by medics, often while in an emotional state, to abort their unborn babies with the condition. 

The alarming testimonies were heard by Australia’s Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability as it began a two-week hearing on how individuals with a cognitive disability experience healthcare in the country. 

Toni Mitchell, from Toowoomba, says she’s had to continually justify the life of her son Joshua, who has Down’s syndrome and autism, to healthcare professionals.

Speaking to the Commission, Toni shared how one doctor assumed she would have an abortion when her Joshua was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome following a routine ultrasound scan.

After being told she was having a boy, a senior doctor told Toni it was highly likely her baby would have Down’s syndrome and could miscarry within several weeks.

While Toni was still crying the man said, “Here’s your appointment for a termination”, she said, and he gave her a piece of paper. 

“That was our introduction to it and it set the whole tone for Joshy’s life”, Toni said. 

“In that moment, they completely disallowed his life. They said he wasn’t worth living.”

Toni told the commission that she threw the paper in the bin.

“That was the moment I had to start justifying my son’s right to live and to be treated and I had to start justifying his value to be alive,” she said.

“For the whole rest of my pregnancy… they kept saying, you don’t understand what you’re doing.

“You don’t understand the immensity of bringing a child like this into the world, you don’t understand what a burden this is going to be on you and on society and your family.

“They kept just judging us based on my decision to give him a chance at life.”

Rebecca Kelly, whose son Ryan has Down syndrome, told the Commission that in the model of Australia’s health system “if you can’t cure it … then you eradicate it.”

“If you think that person’s life is a tragedy and that they suffer from this condition then you start to believe that it’s an act of kindness or that it’s a responsible act to do all you can to prevent that birth, and that becomes quite coercive,” she added.

However, likeToni experienced, Rebecca revealed the problems didn’t end with abortion pressure. 

Rebecca stated: “if you have a doctor [who] thinks that possibly your life’s going to be a little bit better if your child doesn’t make it because they’re taking that burden away from you, that has horrible implications for the level of care that you don’t get.”

The Royal Commission was established in April 2019 and will seek to provide an interim report by October 2020, and a final report by April 2022. It is hoped the report will lead to better healthcare for those with disabilities and more support for parents of children with disabilities. 

Last year, it was revealed pregnant mothers in the UK were facing similar pressure to abort children with Down’s syndrome. 

Research by Positive About Down Syndrome (PADS) shows that even after being offered an abortion and informing medical professionals that they wished to keep their baby, 46 percent of mothers were asked again if they wanted to abort.

Figures published just one month later found 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, adding weight to the study conducted by PADS.