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Ethics – Disability double-standard

December 2016

Disability debates have exposed deep hypocrisy at the heart of parliament, a leading peer has claimed.

As Lord Shinkwin’s Abortion (Disability Equality) Bill sailed through its second reading in the House of Lords, some peers argued strongly against limiting the rights of the parents to abort a disabled child.

Currently, abortions on grounds of disability are allowed up to the point of birth. Lord Shinkwin is trying to reduce this to 24 weeks, the same as for all other pregnancies.

Speaking at the debate, Lord Shinkwin said, ‘From this disabled person’s perspective, there is a stark anomaly, an inconsistency in the law, whereby discrimination on grounds of disability is both prohibited in law after birth, yet, confusingly, actually enshrined in law at the very point at which the discrimination begins, at source, before birth’.

His comments were backed up by Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, who commented, ‘I speak as someone who happens to be profoundly disabled from an in utero problem. I would very much have avoided being discarded before birth, if I had had any opportunity to comment on it.

‘Yet here we are discussing the discarding almost at the moment of birth a potentially valuable human being, who might go on to win a gold medal in the Paralympics. Is not there a hypocrisy here that needs significantly to be addressed and discussed? It is time that we woke up to the fact that we are hypocrites on disability’.

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