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More disturbing news on “The Frankenstein Bill”

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embryoCameron will not support abortion amendment on disabilities

I have known many South Shields’ families during my fifty years of life in this town who have been blessed with the gift of disabled children, some with slight problems others with the most severe of difficulties in comparison to the rest of society. After the initial shock at birth, all of those whom I knew went on to develop the most wondrous bonds with their children devoting their life to their care, attention, needs, and in the nature of giving them as much quality as humanly possible. I have known families who were aware at the outset that their children might not necessarily reach adulthood, yet nothing deterred them from being proud, resolute, loving, parents.

Despite the heartache of losing a child at a relatively early age, most of those in this situation would not have had things any other way, they are saints in my mind. I have known children quadriplegic and unable to communicate with little else except eye contact or touch, I have seen a seemingly healthy seventeen year old with spina bifida succumb to liver failure overnight, it was heart wrenching, he was my friend.

Yet we have a law which still allows doctors to abort embryos with genetic defects that lead to (some quite minor) disabilities right up to 39 weeks – that’s right, up to the normal gestation period!

The Disability Rights Commission has previously expressed concerns about these double standards in the 1967 Abortion Act:

“It reinforces negative stereotypes of disability and there is substantial support for the view that to permit terminations at any point during a pregnancy on the ground of risk of disability, while time limits apply to other grounds set out in the Abortion Act, is incompatible with valuing disability and non-disability equally. In common with a wide range of disability and other organisations, the DRC believes the context in which parents choose whether to have a child should be one in which disability and non-disability are valued equally.”

We are not just talking about major problems here, in 2001 the Rev. Joanna Jepson started a legal challenge into the late abortion of a 28 week-old foetus. The reasons given for the termination were associated with the foetus having a cleft lip and palate – grounds which the Rev. Jepson argued did not constitute “a serious handicap” under the terms of the 1967 UK Abortion Act. The Rev. Joanna Jepson, who was born with a jaw deformity herself, and whose brother is disabled, argued that the abortion was an “unlawful killing“. However, in 2005 a judicial review concluded that the doctors carrying out the abortion had “acted in good faith“, and would not face prosecution.

MPs now want to make an amendment to the Human Embryo and Fertilisation Bill which would bring this anomaly into line with the time period for all abortions, thus all embryos would be treated as equal at the same time.

My own personal view is that the destruction of embryos on the grounds that they may have deformities or disabilities is a gruesome form of social engineering that we could well do without, and I’m sure that the parents I spoke of above would passionately agree with me. So why am I disturbed by the news that Conservative Party leader David Cameron will not be supporting the amendment to lower the limit to 24 weeks (which is still the highest in Europe)?

I am disturbed that an issue is being made of a single person who just happens to lead a national political party by both a national newspaper and the Conservative Home blog. It is a sensitive issue, more to do with disability than abortion, more to do with the perception of how we view human beings as a whole, regardless of their abilities in comparison with one another. So my own views differ from Cameron’s, so what? As the father of a disabled child he has every right to hold his own views, and every right to hold a differing view from others. This is a complex and unusual Bill in that it deals with many ethical questions posed by the continuing forward march of science and therefore we should not expect our legislators to abandon whatever views they hold on morality and faith. Further, we should expect that our legislators take cognisance of the fact that many in society hold views on morality and faith that may differ from their own, and for these reasons alone it disturbs me that politicians may be subject to the party whipping system when voting on this Bill.

This is not in any way shape or form a party political issue, yet Gordon Brown (the son of the Manse) has so far not been able to decide exactly how he wishes his Cabinet or his party to proceed on the issue, surely he should concede that here is a Bill which demands that MPs consult there own consciences before coming to a decision.

That decision should be made on the basis of a free vote, in both Houses!

Written by curly

March 17, 2008 at 10:14 pm

One Response

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  1. This issues really gets to me. I have Turner Syndrome, which is a naturally occurring genetic defect. If you are going to have a genetic disorder, Turner Syndrome is probably the best one to have. I have met several girls and women who have TS (it only affects females), and even though many suffer far worse effects than I ever did or will, almost all are high functioning. It disturbs me that there are doctors who value MY life so little (I know it shouldn’t feel that way, but it does) that they will advise women to abort on a diagnosis of Turner Syndrome. They are out there.

    It is one slippery slope.


    Lindsey Russell

    March 18, 2008 at 1:03 am

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