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Disability abortions

March 2013

Disability abortions

A cross-party parliamentary inquiry has been launched to review the law governing abortion on the grounds of disability.
    It will be chaired by Conservative MP Fiona Bruce, who said, ‘This inquiry will examine evidence and establish whether there is room for a review of this legislation, bearing in mind both medical advances and advances in our attitudes towards disability over recent years.
    ‘The majority of the commission has a particular interest in disability and we are keen to receive evidence from as many people as possible, to enable a thorough analysis of the current law and practice’.
    Virendra Sharma MP, vice-chairman of the inquiry and chairman of the Down’s Syndrome All Party Parliamentary Group, said, ‘We are entering this inquiry with open minds and are looking forward to receiving evidence from a wide range of different perspectives, with a particular focus on assessing the information and guidance provided to families following the diagnosis of a disability’.
    The current law permits an abortion to take place up to birth (40 weeks), if tests for disability indicate that the child may be disabled when born. There is a legal limit of 24 weeks for abortions on other grounds.
    Terms of reference governing the inquiry require it to assess the intention of the current law, how it works in practice and the prospects for developing the law going forward.
    The inquiry will also consult individuals, medical, legal experts and interest groups to assess the impact of the current law on disabled people and their families.
    Additionally, it will assess whether the differentiation between abortion on the grounds of disability and non disability is discriminatory, following the passing of the Equality Act 2010. The inquiry meets over February and March and will report in May.

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