Lord Shinkwin’s bill opposing abortion for disability debated in the House of Lords
21 October 2016
Lord Shinkwin asked peers to consider the issue from a disabled person's perspective.
The Abortion (Disability Equality) Act, introduced by disabled peer Lord Shinkwin, received its second reading in the House of Lords this afternoon. The bill aims to remove disability as a ground for abortion from the 1967 Act.
In his opening remarks, Lord Shinkwin said that according to the Department of Health's "eugenic screening programme", he, as a person with a severe disability, would be "better off dead". He also lambasted the department's "search and destroy" approach to screening, and said that for babies where disability is detected, the mother's womb has become an increasingly dangerous place.
Many of the peers who spoke in the debate supported the bill. Baroness Nicholson spoke of the hypocrisy inherent in lauding Paralympic athletes while allowing discrimination before birth, and Baroness Stroud quoted parents who had been criticised by doctors for deciding to keep their baby. However, Baroness Hayter, while expressing sympathy for people with disabilities, said that "restricting abortion care" was not the way to improve their lives. In his closing remarks, Lord Shinkwin responded that the biggest hurdle for disabled people is attitudes, and questioned how many people with disabilities will be in the House of Lords in the future, and able to make a contribution, if the law is not changed.
Lord Shinkwin also called on the Health Secretary to meet with him and people with Down's Syndrome and their families before introducing non-invasive prenatal screening on the NHS.
The whole debate can be watched here: http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/3c04ea69-45e3-440e-93a6-07976ac9e1bd
Read the blog from SPUC's Paul Tully on the bill.
Abortion row in Italy as woman dies after miscarriage
The BBC is reporting that Italian prosecutors have begun an inquiry into the death of a woman after she miscarried twins.
A lawyer for the family of Valentina Milluzzo said that the doctor treating her refused to abort the babies because he was a conscientious objector to abortion. However, Cannizzaro hospital has categorically denied these claims. Angelo Pellicano, the head of the hospital, said:
"There was no conscientious objection on behalf of the doctor that intervened in this case because there was no voluntary termination of the pregnancy, but (the miscarriage) was forced by the grave circumstances."
Reports at this stage are confusing and contradictory. The story does not reveal if Mrs Milluzzo ever requested an abortion, or how it might have prevented her death.
Ann Furedi defends late term abortion for disability
The Daily Telegraph has published an article by Ann Furedi, Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), in which she defends third trimester abortions for foetal abnormality.
Ms Furedi writes in response to Hilary Clinton's recent defence of late term abortion. She also criticised Sally Phillips’ documentary on screening for Down’s Syndrome, and Lord Shinkwin’s Abortion (Disability Equality) Bill, which is being debated in the House of Lords today. She says that the aim of the bill, which seeks to remove abortion on the grounds of disability from the 1967 Act, "is to compel women with a late diagnosis of foetal anomaly to give birth." The bill in fact makes no distinction between late and early diagnosis.
Pro-choice advocate expelled from Ireland Citizens' Assembly
A man has had to leave the Citizens Assembly being held in Ireland after it emerged that he was formerly involved in a pro-choice lobby group. This follows news that Chairwoman Ms Justice Mary Laffoy was investigating a claim made by the Pro-Life Campaign that an assembly member had been expressing pro-choice views on social media.
Retired professor commits suicide with imported "euthanasia kit"
An inquest has heard that retired professor Avril Henry took her own life using drugs she illegally imported from Mexico.
Police had raided her home after tracking the parcel, but didn't recover all of the drugs. Prof Henry was a member of Exit International, which is run by "Doctor Death", Philip Nitschke.