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)

Boy with ‘no brain’ continues to defy expectations after parents refused abortion five times

A seven-year-old from Cumbria has moved his foot for the first time after undergoing pioneering therapy after his parents rejected pressure from doctors to abort him.

Doctors did not expect Noah Wall, who was born with spina bifida, only 2 per cent of his brain and is paralysed from the waist down, to live more than a few days.

They advised his parents, Shelley and Rob Wall, to consider abortion on five separate occasions. But they refused, and now Noah continues to defy expectations.

But, at the age of three, his brain had grown to a remarkable 80 percent of what it should be and is now nearly fully-functional, leaving medical professionals stunned.

He is now undergoing specialised treatment – designed to alter the way the brain sends messages to his limbs.

“We were offered termination five times,” Rob told documentary, The Boy Without a Brain. “It was never an option for us. To me, we wanted to give Noah that chance of life.”

“To hear his brain’s almost back to normal is beyond belief,” Shelly Wall said. “Rob and I broke down when we heard the news. It was like a dream. I’ve never known anything like it. Even the consultants were in tears. Every time we see the doctors, they just shake their head. They’re just amazed at what he can do.”

Every year, Noah gives out hundreds of Christmas presents to staff and patients at Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle – the hospital he was born in. With more therapy, it is hopeful he will one day deliver gifts on foot.

Claire Nicholson, Noah’s consultant neurosurgeon, said in 2016: “He has surprised us through his life so far. He’s completely remarkable.”

She added that Noah teaches the medical profession that “you can’t ever know, doesn’t matter how many statistics you throw at something”.

Noah is just one of many babies who have defied the odds. 

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.

Abortion regulator, RCOG, looks into foetal pain… but who looks into them?

For months we have been aware of the discriminatory disparity in patient care: that unborn babies aged 20-24 weeks gestation undergoing spina bifida surgery receive foetal painkillers, but that babies of the same age being aborted are not given painkillers. 

MPs have been lobbying the Department of Health and Social Care who have finally raised the issue of the use of foetal painkillers in late term abortions with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG). 

This would be welcome news because one would assume that the RCOG would recommend that all babies from a gestational age of 20 weeks onwards would receive painkillers prior to any invasive procedure.

However, RCOG’s track record suggests otherwise.

When they were first asked by the Department of Health to investigate foetal pain in 1997, they concluded that consultants should consider the need for the use of painkillers for ‘diagnostic or therapeutic procedures’ on foetuses in utero. Indeed, the Department of Health admitted that foetal painkillers are used in cases of in utero surgery from 20 weeks gestation. But what about in cases of abortion? If an unborn child needs painkillers for ‘diagnostic or therapeutic procedures’, surely they need them all the more in an abortion? Perhaps unsurprisingly, the RCOG omitted to raise or answer these awkward questions.

To do so would risk humanising the unborn baby our society has worked so hard to dehumanise, at least when it comes to abortion. This is why we witness this curious doublethink whereby unborn babies in need of ‘diagnostic or therapeutic procedures’ are given painkillers, but babies to be aborted are not. In the former case, the baby is (presumably) wanted, and therefore acknowledged to be a baby capable of feeling pain and entitled to pain relief. In the latter, the unwanted baby, destined to be aborted, amazingly enough, can feel no pain (according to RCOG at least).

How do we know that the baby destined to be aborted can feel no pain? Well, in 2010, the RCOG looked into this question confidently announcing that before a 24 week abortion,   “No, the fetus does not experience pain”.

In fact, the RCOG go even further than this. In their 2010 Guidelines on Fetal Awareness they assert that the unborn baby is in an unconscious state and does not reach consciousness until birth. This conclusion is based on, in the words of RCOG 2010 ‘good’, ‘increasing’ evidence, but this evidence was one paper from 1986: an experiment on sheep foetuses exposed to low oxygen levels. As a result, they concluded, and ever since have advised mothers accordingly, that there is no requirement for foetal painkillers prior to an abortion at any gestational age even up to the point of birth. 

Again though, this does not square with practice in relation to in utero corrective surgery on unborn babies.

Sadly this is not surprising given the varied lengths RCOG has gone to in dehumanising the unborn baby whose life will come to an end in abortion. For example, specifically using language which ignores the humanity of the child such as ‘products of conception’, a ‘pregnancy’ and, by the president of the RCOG, likened to a bunion

Moreover, the RCOG, who author all clinical guidelines for the UK abortion industry and have many members who benefit from this, are effectively unaccountable without checks or oversight. The Department of Health does not let the tobacco industry govern itself, but it does allow this freedom to the abortion industry, worth an estimated £118 million annually in 2011. They also use their position of unchecked authority to advise parliament and publish their version of abortion advice to schools.

RCOG clinical guidelines are more untouchable than the law itself. Our law is made by elected representatives in the open to serve the country; their clinical guidelines are made by an unaccountable body behind closed doors to serve themselves.

So, based on their past form and knowing that they can publish unaccountably, what advice will they come up with for these babies being aborted without painkiller? Unless their hand is forced, anything they wish.

Until RCOG say otherwise, around ten mothers a day* continue to proceed with a very late term abortion (post 20 weeks) under the assurance that their baby will feel no pain and so does not need painkiller. Yet in the same hospitals, mothers with babies of the same age are assured that their baby will feel no pain because foetal painkillers will be given.

*In 2018, there were 3,602 abortions after 20 weeks. Therefore, there were approximately 10 late term abortions (post 20 weeks) every day in 2018. (See Abortion statistics 2018: data tables T5)

All opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of Right To Life UK.

All opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of Right To Life UK.

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)