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

Stand up and smile campaign

PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Press release – 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 have come together to bring forward the Abortion (Cleft lip, cleft palate and club foot protection) 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. 

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.

Catherine Robinson, spokesperson for Right To Life UK, 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.”

ENDS

UK mother told to have abortion 10 times after baby found to have disability

A woman from Liverpool, Natalie Halson, was offered an abortion 10 times when she was pregnant with her daughter, Mirabelle, who was diagnosed in the as having spina bifida.

At every appointment, right up until the birth of her daughter, Natalie was repeatedly asked if she would like to abort her baby. Not knowing why the doctors kept doing so, Natalie eventually found out about her daughter’s medical condition which meant that part of her spine and spinal cord had not developed properly. This can cause paralysis of the legs, bowel or urinary incontinence, and even brain damage.

“I found out as much as I could and realised that there were options, I refused to give up on my baby but the medics just wouldn’t take no for an answer.

“It was so insistent even after I’d repeatedly said no but it was getting offered a termination just weeks before she was born that really upset me.

The doctors implied “an abortion was [her] only option and explained that if [she] went ahead with the pregnancy [her] baby would be wheelchair bound and have no quality of life.”

It was only after Mirabelle’s mother was able to do the research that she discovered that life for her daughter was not over, admitting that “If I’d not had that time to do my research I might have even agreed to the termination.”

Mirabelle was eventually born via an emergency C-section at Liverpool Women’s Hospital at 38 weeks, but was immediately taken to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital for a spinal operation.

“They operated on Mirabelle’s spine the day after she was born, it was a horrible anxious wait as it lasted about 12 hours, but the doctors were really happy with her progress afterwards.

After a month of visiting the newborn in hospital, she was finally allowed to take Mirabelle home. It seems likely that her daughter will have a normal life

“I would recommend to any parents who are advised to abort that it isn’t the only option, no matter what the hospitals try and tell them.” Natalie said

Clare McCarthy from Right To Life UK said:

“This is a wonderful outcome to what could have been a very sad story. It is deeply disappointing that Natalie’s doctors’ first – and apparently only – ‘solution’ to a diagnosis of spina bifida was abortion.”

This condition is not something that is the end of people’s lives. If someone has it, then there is the potential for it to be fixed (or at least made more manageable in the future). Sometimes it can be sorted via surgery, other times it just means you have to be more aware of what you can and cannot do. If you would like more information on spinal conditions and how they can be helped check out this website here: https://scoliosisinstitute.com/.

“The discrimination towards children with disabilities on display here is appalling. All children, disabled or not, deserve a chance at life and it is a gross failure of professional responsibility for the doctors in this case to push abortion in a situation where it is not required or desired.”

“The attitude of the doctors in this case is particularly inexcusable given the recent advances in medical technology. In May this year, for example, doctors performed corrective spinal surgery on a child who was still in the womb. Whilst this may not have been appropriate here, the very fact that Mirabelle is now healthy after her operation proves that there was life changing medical care available to her, rather than abortion.”