Disabled women have raised concerns about a new bill that would equalise the time limit for abortions for disabled and non-disabled foetuses.
The private member’s bill has been brought forward by the disabled Tory peer Lord [Kevin] Shinkwin.
He told Disability News Service (DNS) this week that his abortion (disability equality) bill would send a powerful message that society, and the government, believe in equality for all disabled people, both before and after birth.
At present, it is legal under the 1967 Abortion Act to abort a foetus right up to the point of birth, where [in the act’s words] “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”.
But his efforts to change the law have provoked substantial opposition, including from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas).
This week, bpas published a report summarising discussions that took place at a workshop on disability and reproductive rights, which it organised alongside the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).
The workshop, on 27 June, heard that the concerns and needs of disabled women were almost always ignored in discussions about reproductive and sexual rights.
The disabled political journalist Dr Frances Ryan said this meant that disability was often only mentioned when discussing reproductive rights in the context of the law on abortion and disabled foetuses.
Ryan told DNS yesterday (Wednesday) that she opposed Lord Shinkwin’s bill and that “any progress made in disability rights should never be off the back of women’s”.
She said: “I’m worried about any measure that restricts women’s personal choices about what’s best for their own bodies and families.