Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Disability Discrimination ?

Disability groups have fought hard for years against discrimination, and rightly so. The 2012 paralympics was lauded as a tremendous sign of triumph over adversity, an indication of what people with all sorts of disabilities can achieve - and, quite frankly, all of the so-called "disabled" sportsmen and women could wipe the floor with me in any of the sporting events.

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.


ALDU said...

SPUC notes in its latest edition of SPUC NEWS that the Journal of Medical Ethics, which has a strong anti-life slant, published in May an edition comprising nearly 40 articles, commentaries and editorials discussing the rights and wrongs of infanticide. This followed a highly controversial (single) article published in the JME last year which attempted to justify infanticide.

SPUC asks whether this is genuine academic interest or part of an attempt to soften up public opinion to the idea of infanticide.

With regard to abortion of children believed to be at 'substantial' risk of disability, the Abortion Act specifies that the risk must be that the child would be "seriously handicapped". 'Seriously' is as much a weasel word as is the word'substantial'. Who would be in a position to say that a disabling condition was or was not serious? Besides, what does the word mean in this context.


Katalina said...

Its funny to me that we in the West never seem to learn from History. How many times have we grew up hearing all about how evil Hitlers Nazi party was and the crimes they committed and yet just half a century later we seem to be condoning or favoring policies Hitlers Nazi used. Euthanasia and all of these others and even trying to master Human Life itself with ESSR and Cloning. Wake up West!

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