Simone Aspis says abortions should not be available just because
the baby will be disabled.
UK studies have shown that 94 per cent of women choose to
terminate their pregnancies after discovering that they are at risk
of giving birth to a disabled baby with a severe impairment.
Am I surprised when we do not generally welcome disabled people
in the community? Most women are unlikely to have grown up with
disabled people living positive lives or have only seen disabled
people living in institutions.
In addition, women fear there would not be the support or
resources to ensure their disabled child has a good quality of
life. One of the reasons for the introduction of the Abortion Act
1967 was the thalidomide tragedy in the 1960s, which resulted in an
increased number of babies with physical impairments.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for a woman’s right to choose to
give birth and believe there are certain circumstances where
termination is acceptable. After all having children is a serious
and long-term commitment.
I also believe, however, that pre-natal tests on the foetus are
administered solely in order to give the woman a choice to abort.
Why should women be able to pick and choose what type of child they
We already acknowledge that not all choices for abortion would
be ethical: we do not accept unborn babies being aborted simply
because they are the “wrong” gender, ethnicity or do not have the
desired colour eyes or hair. This is because we accept that the
consequences would have a negative impact upon the balance of the
human race, so why isn’t this extended to babies who would be born
Without disabled babies we are in danger of constraining the
diversity of the human race. If it’s babies with Down’s Syndrome
today, who will it be tomorrow? Babies without one limb, one finger
Over the coming years, there will be new pre-natal tests to
determine whether a baby is likely to be born disabled. Pre-natal
care has advanced over the years with an increasing number of
premature babies surviving.
Similarly, surgery can be performed on the unborn baby while in
the woman’s womb. Many babies who may be born disabled are likely
to be terminated rather than being offered any life-saving surgery
while in the womb.
To ensure that disabled people have equal rights to life, the
law must first prevent doctors from offering a woman the choice of
abortion if the baby is likely to be, or will be, born disabled;
and the woman’s right to request an abortion simply because the
baby will be born disabled should be removed.
This must be supported by disabled unborn babies having the same
right as non-disabled babies to life-saving surgery and other
health care while in the womb.
Simone Aspis is a freelance training consultant and
member of People First, an organisation run by and for people with