Under the new abortion regime (2.1.3) abortion for disabilities will be available through to birth “if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental impairment as to be seriously disabled.”
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.
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 (see article here from the BBC Victoria Derbyshire Show which outlines that a mother was offered a termination at 38-weeks gestation).
The latest available figures show that 90% of children diagnosed with Down’s syndrome before birth are aborted in England and Wales.
Northern Ireland up to now has had a very different approach. Disability-selective abortion for Down’s syndrome is not permitted and there is 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.
This very large discriminatory change was highlighted in two speeches by disabled peer Lord Shinkwin in the House of Lords when he was speaking against the proposed changes, one of which is featured below.