(CNSNews.com) – The United Kingdom’s House of Lords debated - and ultimately moved to committee - a bill Friday that would make it illegal to abort babies diagnosed with a disability past 24 weeks gestation.
Current UK law allows for abortion up to birth for an unborn baby diagnosed with a disability compared with a 24 week limit on abortion for a healthy unborn child.
Lord Kevin Shinkwin, a sufferer of the rare genetic disorder, brittle bone disease, vigorously argued for the necessity of his bill Friday.
“As a disabled person, as a would be prime candidate for abortion on grounds of disability,” Lord Shinkwin said in his speech to the House of Lords, “I would like to say to the eugenicists in the Department of Health and those who obviously fail to appreciate the enormity of what is being perpetrated in our name: How dare you? How dare you wipe us out as mere conditions?”
He added that his message to those who share those views is: “I am your equal. I will not be defined by my disability. I will be defined by who I am, my contribution to your Lordships’ house, and to public service.”
“There is a stark anomaly, an inconsistency in the law whereby discrimination on grounds of disability is both prohibited by law after birth and yet confusingly actually enshrined in law at the very point at which discrimination begins at source: before birth,” Shinkwin argued, citing section 1(1)d of the 1967 Abortion Act which allows abortion up to birth if “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.”
Abortion is otherwise illegal past the 24th week of pregnancy aside from exceptions for risk to the life of the mother.
“By rights, my Lords, I shouldn’t be here. I should be dead,” Shinkwin said. “Indeed more than that, according to the eugenics screening program of our Department of Health, I would be better off dead because of serious handicap, to use the outdated terminology of the act. I regard my private member’s bill as a modest, reasonable, and logical correction of that anomaly in the law.”
“How ridiculous it is,” Shinkwin noted, “that I should be a member of your Lordships’ house, for whom the health minister recently professed in an email to me, no doubt sincerely, to have the greatest respect and yet were a younger, unborn version of me to be detected in the womb today, Section 1(1)d of the act and his Department’s search and destroy approach to screening would make me a prime candidate for abortion.”
Shinkwin’s Abortion (Disability Equality) Bill would completely remove section 1(1)(d) from the 1967 Abortion Act.
Shinkwin noted that the practical effect of his bill would be that “the mother’s ability to abort will be governed by the same criteria that’s applied in the case of any other fetus.”
“The difference in practice is modest,” he acknowledged, but added, “the difference in principle is huge.”
Shinkwin argued that “for unborn babies whose disability is detected a mother’s womb has become an increasingly dangerous place.”
He cited the UK’s Department of Health statistics for 2015, which showed 230 abortions past 24 weeks on grounds of disability in 2015 which Shinkwin said is “a 56 percent increase in the number of terminations on grounds of disability after 24 weeks over the last 5 years between 2010 and 2015.”
There were 3,213 abortions total on the grounds of disability in 2015, “a 68 percent increase in the number of terminations on grounds of disability over the last ten years, 2005 to 2015.”
Shinkwin added that “689 abortions were because of a diagnosis of Down Syndrome alone in 2015.”
He said that tragically 11 abortions were “for cleft lip or palate, an easily surgically rectifiable condition in 2015.”
The bill comes at a time when UK Secretary of Health Jeremy Hunt is deciding when and how to implement a new screening technique, the Noninvasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) which can detect Down Syndrome with 99 percent accuracy.
Shinkwin noted that he requested back in March that the Health Secretary meet with him and “with people with Down Syndrome, their families and representatives, to discuss their grave concerns.”
He said if the meeting does not take place, he “would be very seriously concerned, and I would simply urge with greatest respect my government and my party not to disown it’s own disability discrimination act and its commitment to ensuring disabled people must be heard on all crucial issues affecting them which is consistent with the spirit of that act.”
As CNSNews.com previously reported, UK Actress Sally Phillips, who has a son with Down Syndrome, is speaking out against the new screening technique with her documentary, “A World Without Down’s Syndrome?”