Conference hears of 'better alternative' to abortion
By the Rev. Dr. Chris Sugden
Church of England Newspaper
March 2, 2017
The fifty years since the 1967 Abortion Act, which came into effect in 1968. was marked by a day conference on Abortion, Disability and the Law hosted by the Anscombe Bioethics Centre in Oxford, a Roman Catholic institution that engages with the moral questions arising in clinical practice and biomedical research.
Speakers argued that abortion for disability is a great affront to the value of the lives of disabled people and that practical, legal, medical and social approaches can improve a situation where of 190,000 abortions carried out in 2013, 3,213 were on the grounds of disability.
Professor John Finnis explained the slippery slope in Britain where protection against abortion up to the time of birth on the grounds of disability were removed in 1990. At that time he wrote to MPs that the new law would allow late abortions for harelip and cleft palate which are reversible conditions. Though ridiculed, his warnings have proved accurate. Late abortions are now justified on the grounds that some tests can only be made at 23 weeks. Lord Shinkwin's Bill in the House of Lords seeks to remove disability as a ground for abortion.
In Ireland, attempts to establish a right to abortion in international law are being promoted by Amnesty International and funded by George Soros to force the Irish Government to remove the protection by which the Irish Constitution gives the right to life of the unborn with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother. In 2013, on the say-so of one psychologist, Ireland legalised abortion to prevent the suicide of the mother, though no medical evidence shows that abortion alleviates suicidal tendencies. Rather, most women in the mental health wards of one hospital in their forties and fifties had had an abortion.
Professor John Wyatt made a moving case for neonatal palliative care as a realistic, compassionate and morally compelling alternative to abortion as a response to a diagnosis of severe disability in an unborn child. Such care alleviates suffering in the infant born with a life-limiting condition, allows the parents to name their child, and meet and bond with it, for as long as the child lives, even if only for hours or days. Whole families can welcome the newborn. Social and bereavement support is provided when baby eventually dies. This recognises the value of the baby's life and celebrates the joy that babies with even the most serious conditions can bring to others.
A final panel discussion, which included Heidi Crowter (21) who has Down's syndrome and spread laughter all around, her mother Liz, Jane Jessop who founded Blue Apple Theatre which gives acting opportunities to people with disabilities, and Sally Phillips, a star in Drop the Dead Donkey and Bridget Jones' movies, who has a boy with Down's. They stressed that emphasising the right to a child neglects that any child is a gift. Ninety per cent of Down's syndrome babies in the UK are now aborted, and Iceland and Denmark are seeking to reach figures of one hundred percent.
Participants were encouraged to take part in the current consultation on whether pharmacists should continue to be allowed a conscience clause to refuse to provide the Morning After Pill.
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