The Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill has been introduced to the Northern Ireland Assembly. The bill seeks to amend the current Abortion (Northern Ireland) (No.2) Regulations 2020 to no longer allow unborn babies with a ‘serious fetal impairment’ (SFI) to be aborted to term. This bill would not amend the law in cases of “fatal fetal abnormality” (FFA).
Currently under the Northern Ireland regulations, abortion is legal up to birth based solely on a primary diagnosis of disabilities such as Down’s syndrome, cleft palate, cleft lip or club foot. This new bill proposes that non-fatal disabilities are not grounds for abortion in Northern Ireland and that the current law is discriminatory against those with such disabilities.
The most recent figures in England and Wales show that 90% of babies found to have Down’s syndrome are aborted.
Before the British Government imposed the new disability abortion provision, Northern Ireland had a very different approach to how it treated people with Down’s syndrome.
Disability-selective abortion for Down’s syndrome was not permitted and there was a more positive culture of accepting people with disabilities rather than eliminating them out.
We can see this in the latest figures (2016) from the Department of Health in Northern Ireland. They show that there were 52 children with Down’s syndrome born in Northern Ireland. In the same year, only 1 child from Northern Ireland with Down’s syndrome was aborted in England and Wales.
So many babies found to have Down’s syndrome are already selectively terminated in England, Wales and Scotland. If this discriminatory provision is not removed, we will likely see even more babies in the UK screened out by termination.
If you are a person with Down’s syndrome or have a family member with Down’s syndrome, please sign the open letter to the Northern Ireland party leaders asking them to support the Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill.
We know that there are many people within our community who are concerned about the change in law that happened last year and have not yet been heard – this letter is your chance to be heard and to let the Northern Ireland party leaders know just how many people are seriously concerned about this discriminatory provision and the need for an urgent change to ensure that babies with disabilities including Down’s syndrome are not singled out for abortion.