On Friday 27 January 2016 the Abortion (Disability Equality) Bill passed committee stage in the House of Lords. This is a private members bill sponsored by Lord Shinkwin.
The Bill looks to remove provision 1(1)(d) in the Abortion Act 1967 which allows women to have an abortion on the grounds that the unborn child would suffer from physical or mental abnormalities, resulting in serious handicap. This is a ground for abortion that does not have a time limit.
We produced a briefing for parliamentarians ahead of the second reading and committee stages on why we oppose this Bill.
We believe that this ground for abortion, without a time limit, is necessary and valuable to patients and families supported by our membership. Abortion on the grounds of fetal abnormality is an important component of the options available to a woman who discovers that she has a pregnancy affected by a serious genetic condition.
Fundamentally, this provision within the Abortion Bill 1967 gives women and couples time. Time to make one of the most difficult decisions a couple can face. If enacted, the Bill would force a race against time for women, and couples, raising the stakes in an already traumatic situation.
We oppose this Bill because we believe it is important to preserve this reproductive choice option. We take no view as to which choice anyone should take in their particular situation, and would support their decision and their right to make it, whatever it is.
We will continue to oppose this bill into report stage (date tbc). If any members of Genetic Alliance UK have strong views on this issue, please contact uscreate new email.