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UN criticises UK over disabled abortions

Catholic peer grateful that policy towards unborn disabled children challenged in new report

A Catholic life peer has applauded the United Nations after it told the UK to respect the lives of unborn disabled children by changing its “barbaric” abortion law on disability.

The peer also insisted that this is an opportune moment for the faithful and pro-life campaigners to lobby and pressurise MPs into changing the law, or else the UN criticism will be ignored.

The UN strongly criticised Britain’s record on disability rights when its Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) called on the British Government to take action in order to provide better support for inclusion for those suffering from disabilities.

The CRPD expressed serious concern about higher levels of poverty among the disabled, an increase in hate speech and bullying, and the number of people institutionalised in the UK.

It also urged that the discriminatory abortion law on disability – which allows terminations to take place up until birth if the foetus is disabled – be changed.

Lord David Alton of Liverpool was one of many pro-life campaigners to welcome the report, however, he warned that this major point of the report was at risk of falling under the radar.

“The UN has taken an important and very welcome stand for equality and against disability discrimination – recognising that such discrimination and inequality has its starting point in the womb,” Lord Alton told The Universe.

“In the UK we have laws that allow an unborn child to have its life ended up until 24 weeks gestation but in the case of a disabled child, with the full force of British law, they may have their lives ended up to and during birth.

“Setting aside the repugnant barbarism which this involves, such laws clearly run counter to any concept of equality or discrimination. Yet you can bet your last pound that law makers will studiously ignore this part of the UN’s report.”

Many news reports on the CRPD study focused on the UN’s concern about the UK’s failure to uphold the rights of disabled people through the Government’s austerity measures.

However, the vast majority of these reports also failed to go into any detail, or even mention, any point made about the UN’s criticism of the UK’s abortion law on disability, which, as Mark Bhagwandin, senior education officer at Life charity, pointed out, is the “most serious discrimination” of all.

“We pride ourselves in the UK for having laws to ensure quality for all, yet the most serious discrimination can be found written into the abortion act which allows for the termination of the disabled inside the womb at any time,” Mr Bhagwandin told The Universe.

“The right to protection under the law for anyone who is disabled begins only when they came out of the womb, but for everyone else, not disabled, that right begins three months before, at 24 weeks,” he continued.

“It sends the wrong message to the disabled; that their lives are worth less than others. True equality means giving the same rights and protections to all irrespective of whether they are able or disabled, born or unborn.

“The abortion act is incongruent with a modern, just and compassionate society which values everyone equally and we therefore welcome this UN recommendation and call on the Government to act accordingly,” he added.

However, while welcoming the UN’s recognition that the abortion law on disability is “barbaric” and “discriminatory”, Lord Alton pointed out that unless campaigners continue to heap pressure onto those in power, the moment of opportunity would fall by the wayside.

“It is good that the UN has recognised what is happening but without huge pressure from the grassroots it is doubtful that MPs will do anything about it,” he concluded.

He also praised the recent Universe story in which we highlighted the ‘elimination’ of the Down’s community in Iceland following the introduction of prenatal screening tests on the Nordic island.

Picture: File photo of a disabled entrance door button. (Andrew Matthews/PA).