Wednesday, 19 June 2013
Disability Discrimination ?
But there is one teensy little point which very few people appear to have mentioned. Society at large (and British legislation in particular) actively encourages direct discrimination against disabled people in one case: any person with a disability can be aborted up to birth.
According to Section 1 of the Abortion Act 1967, the legal limit for an abortion in the UK is 24 weeks. After 24 weeks, presumably, the medics and legal bods have decided that the baby "becomes" a real person, because Sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 come into play.
However, if the baby has a substantial risk of being born with a disability, then the 24-week limit doesn't apply. Note that the disability doesn't have to be definite, there just has to be a substantial risk. No-one has, to my knowledge, actually gone as far as defining what constitutes "substantial." I doubt that any hospital, clinic or doctor would be too keen on insisting that the risk was only a small one and so refusing to give an abortion, just in case the baby did have a disability and the parents subsequently sued. It might put a sizable dent in the Health Trust's budget!
I have read of more than one case where an abortion was carried out, and the disability turned out to be a cleft palate.
And did I mention that the disability doesn't have to be a physical one? Mental abnormalities are also included. What those abnormalities have to be before the baby qualifies as an exception to the Offences Against the Person Act are similarly undefined.
When the Abortion Act was brought in, it was thought that there were sufficient safeguards to keep abortion from being used too freely. Unfortunately, fallen human nature being what it is, we can't see a boundary without pushing it as far as it will go... and then pushing a bit more.
So it's ok to discriminate against disabled people up until they are born... and then it is no longer acceptable.
Well, that could be about to change too...
The Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG), representing doctors in the Netherlands, has said that distress felt by parents can justify "euthanasia" of a dying newborn, making it acceptable, or even necessary. Already, the 2004 Groningen Protocol sets out medical guidelines on "euthanasia" for minors, and this has allowed medical practitioners to end the lives of many children with spina bifida. Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, for example, would never have been given the chance to win her 16 Paralympic medals, nor would many others be allowed to show what they could achieve, being "weeded out" early on so as not to cause their parents distress.
It is all very well to say that this law would only be used for children that were already dying - but, as shown in the case of Tony Bland, it wouldn't stop there. He was neither dying nor in pain, he was simply in a vegetative state... until they stopped feeding and hydrating him. "The lack of quality of life" would soon be invoked for many children born with disabilities...
So it would seem that we have come full-circle, and discrimination against people with disability is not just considered acceptable, but actually necessary.
And this is supposed to be "progress"...
Oh, and did I mention that the Dutch also want to be able to decide to "euthanise" adults with Alzheimer's or other dementias if they have been judged to be "incompetent"? Twitch of the mantilla to Deacon Nick Donnelly for highlighting this.