The United Kingdom's multitude of "equality" provisions will protect nearly anyone born with a disability, although it is perfectly legal to prevent disabled people from being born, up to the point of birth (simply because they have a disability).
The U.K.'s abortion law is therefore an example of the most blatant and basic form of discrimination imaginable.
In the past decade, Europe has emphatically embraced so-called "equality" laws. Nowhere is this truer than in the U.K.
In fact, the U.K.'s Equality Act of 2010 consolidated a remarkable 116 separate pieces of legislation into a single act. And with this act have come equality impact assessments, equality questionnaires, equality and diversity policies, and an Equality Commission and Government Equalities Office to monitor it all.
Under the law, discrimination is unlawful on nine different grounds – including disability. But the tragic irony is that, in the pursuit of eradicating discrimination from society, one significant area was conveniently overlooked – it is still lawful through abortion to stop certain people from entering society.
Abortion was legalized in the U.K. under the Abortion Act of 1967. However, abortion is only permitted on certain grounds, including 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." In 1991, the upper time limit for abortion was reduced to 24 weeks to reflect advances in medical technology, but a concurrently passed amendment allows abortion up to the point of birth if a "substantial risk" exists that the child might be born "seriously handicapped."
Disability of course is defined broadly so as to include such things as cleft lip and palate and club foot – both considered treatable and relatively minor problems. Sex-selective abortion is illegal in the U.K. and is widely considered immoral. Why isn't disability-selective abortion outlawed as well?
As the Disability Rights Commission stated in 2000:
[This law] is offensive to many people; it reinforces negative stereotypes of disability and there is substantial support for the view that to permit terminations at any point during a pregnancy on the ground of risk of disability, while time limits apply to other grounds set out in the Abortion Act, is incompatible with valuing disability and non-disability equally.
For the first time in years, these issues are now being discussed in parliament. Over the past three months, a cross-party inquiry into abortion on the grounds of disability has been receiving evidence and will produce a report on its findings later this month.
Throughout the inquiry, Down's syndrome was mentioned on numerous occasions, and as the inquiry proceeded, much information came to greater public light. For example, over 90 percent of babies diagnosed with Down's syndrome are aborted – many after the 24-week time limit. And new tests could lead to an even higher proportion being aborted in the future.
Since 2002, the number of babies aborted after 24 weeks has increased 29 percent. In 2011, more than 500 abortions followed screening for Down's syndrome. These are sobering statistics for a society that claims to be committed to ending disability discrimination.
Perhaps unsurprising then is that Ann Furedi, head of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service – the UK's largest abortion seller – would prefer that these things not be discussed in parliament. No sooner had the inquiry been announced than Furedi took to a national newspaper to condemn it. She argued, "We will all have different views on abortion for fetal abnormality. They are the most controversial of abortions and arguably the most tragic for often they involve wanted, planned-for pregnancies."
The charity Saving Downs penned a passionate open letter in response, writing, "Disabled people are not tragic; they are our fellow human beings. Like all, they have inherent dignity and value – just like you and me. They are not defined by their difference, but by their humanity."
The open letter made the point well. Remarkably, in an age of "equality" and "human rights," the targeting and eradicating of those with disabilities before they are even born is still considered perfectly normal.
That's the type of tragic contradiction our government officials can no longer afford to ignore. Exercising another human right, the freedom to speak, we must point this out to them so that such deadly discrimination does not conveniently escape their notice – or their lawmaking.