Lord Shinkwin urges end to ‘eugenics’ abortion for disability

21 October 2016

The second reading of a bill to end abortion up to birth on the grounds of disability passed its second reading in the House of Lords today.

Lord Shinkwin’s Abortion (Disability Equality) Bill seeks to remove section 1(1)(d) of the Abortion Act 1967, which permits abortion up to birth if the baby has a disability.

The proposals will now move on to the committee stage, where Peers will be able to propose and debate amendments.

However, without government backing, MPs are unlikely to get a chance to debate it in the Commons, meaning it will not become law.

The ‘We’re All Equal’ campaign is promoting this bill.  Join us in supporting the campaign by asking supporters to contact their MPs, asking the Prime Minister to make time for the bill to be debated in the House of Commons.

‘By rights, I shouldn’t be here’

Introducing the bill, Lord Shinkwin, who is himself disabled, encouraged the Lords to consider the bill from the perspective of a disabled person.

He highlighted the importance of his bill by stating: “By rights, my Lords, I shouldn’t be here. I should be dead.”

He goes further, saying: “Indeed, more than that. According to the eugenics screening programme of our Department of Health, I would be better off dead because of ‘serious handicap’, to use the outdated terminology of the act”.

‘Search and destroy approach’

Lord Shinkwin highlighted the discrepancy between his respected position in the House of Lords, and the Department of Health’s “search and destroy approach to screening”, which would make a “younger version” of himself a “prime candidate” for abortion.

“For unborn babies whose disability is detected, a mother’s womb has become an increasingly dangerous place”, he later said.

He highlighted statistics from the Department of Health which indicate a large rise in the number of abortions on the grounds of disability – a 68% increase between 2005 and 2015.

He cited the rise in abortions for babies with Down’s syndrome, and even easily-remedied clef palates.

‘How dare you wipe us out?’

Lord Shinkwin ended by speaking out against the injustice of the current legislation.

“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?”

“I am your equal,” he went on. “I will not be defined by my disability. I will be defined by who I am.”

He added: “We’ve allowed it to be normalised… I would suggest collectively we are in denial about the consequences of the choices we have made.”

‘Message to society’

Lord Shinkwin’s bill received support from peers.

Crossbench peer Lord Alton of Liverpool compared abortion for disability to the chilling prospect of assisted suicide for adults with a disability.

He questioned what message the current legislation of disability abortion conveys “about the human dignity and the value – or rather lack of value – of disability in society generally?”

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne suggested that abortion for disability is a form of “capital punishment”.

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