Comments due on UK inquiry into abortion for disability

Logo for the United Kingdom Parliament

Logo for the United Kingdom Parliament

The United Kingdom’s Parliament is re-examining the Abortion Act of 1967, specifically Ground E which permits abortion at any time on the basis of disability. Comments are due tomorrow, March 6, 2013, by 12 pm, EST. Read on for the link and how to receive a template for your comment. 

Ground E of The Abortion Act of 1967 is the only other ground when abortion may be performed after the 24th week besides when the pregnancy itself poses a risk to the life or of permanent injury to the mother. The UK Parliament is accepting written evidence commenting on Ground E via e-mail using a form available at this link.

The questions asked on the form should provide good information for the inquiry in its reconsideration of Ground E. The form asks about several areas, including any personal knowledge or experience of fetal disability and care for those with a disability; whether you consider the current law discriminatory against people with disabilities; and, whether the law should be amended.

I have submitted my comment via the e-mail address listed on the form. Here is my response to question 1: What is your view of Ground E of the Abortion Act 1967 (abortion on grounds of disability)?

As Ground E is written, Down syndrome should not be included as a condition that meets its criteria. There may be a variety of other conditions, both genetic and physiological, that could satisfy the standard for posing a “substantial risk … [of] physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.” Not to suggest any of these do meet that criteria, but my understanding of anencephaly and Tay-Sachs could meet that criteria. But, the decades of experience and research on lives lived with Down syndrome prove beyond a doubt that Down syndrome does not meet that criteria. The vast majority of individuals with Down syndrome are not so cognitively impaired so as to be seriously disabled. Therefore, Down syndrome does not pose a substantial risk. “Substantial” would require the likelihood to be a large minority or majority of cases, which is not the case with Down syndrome.

If you would like a copy of my comment to use as a template for your own, simply e-mail me at mleach[at] or tweet me @MarkWLeach.

I hope you, too, will let your voice be heard and comment on this important inquiry.


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