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Open letter to Sinn Fein and the DUP – Don’t Screen Us Out

If the two largest parties in Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), stand by and choose not to reconvene the Northern Ireland Assembly by October 21st, the law on abortion will be changed in Northern Ireland. This change will introduce abortion for babies with Down’s syndrome right through to 28-weeks gestation.

 

The most recent figures in England and Wales show that 90% of babies found to have Down’s syndrome are aborted. Northern Ireland has a very different approach to how it views people with Down’s syndrome. Disability-selective abortion for Down’s syndrome is illegal and there is a more positive culture of accepting people with disabilities.

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 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 Sinn Féin and the DUP do not reconvene the Northern Ireland Assembly by October 21st, allowing the introduction of abortion for Down’s syndrome to Northern Ireland, this will likely see even more babies with Down’s syndrome 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 leaders of Sinn Féin and the DUP asking them to act so that disability-selective abortion for Down’s syndrome, which will have such devastating consequences for our community, is not introduced to Northern Ireland.

 

We know that there are many people within our community who are concerned about this change and have not been heard yet – this letter is your chance to be heard and to let Sinn Féin and the DUP know just how many people are seriously concerned about the proposed changes.

Dear Michelle O’Neill and Arlene Foster,

 

We are writing to you as people with Down’s syndrome and their families because we know you are currently considering whether to reconvene Stormont before October 21st.

 

If you do not agree to reconvene the Northern Ireland Assembly by October 21st, the law on abortion will be changed in Northern Ireland. This change will introduce abortion for babies with Down’s syndrome right through to 28-weeks gestation.

 

The most recent figures in England and Wales show that 90% of babies diagnosed with Down’s syndrome are aborted. Also, over the last 10 years, there has been a 42% increase in abortion for babies who have Down’s syndrome.

 

Northern Ireland has a very different approach to how it treats people with Down’s syndrome. Disability-selective abortion for Down’s syndrome is illegal and there is 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 the same year only 1 child from Northern Ireland with Down’s syndrome was aborted in England and Wales.

 

No-one has talked to us about this change in the law. There has been no consultation with the community of people with Down’s syndrome and their families. Yet, it will have a very big impact on the community of people with Down’s syndrome, not only in Northern Ireland, but in all of the United Kingdom.

 

If you do not reconvene Stormont by October 21st, you will be directly responsible for introducing a deeply discriminatory law to Northern Ireland that will allow for babies with Down’s syndrome to be chosen for abortion simply because they are found to have the condition. This seems archaic in a culture where we embrace our differences and no longer treat people with disabilities as second-class citizens.

 

So many babies with Down’s syndrome are already aborted in England, Wales and Scotland. If you do not reconvene Stormont, allowing the introduction of abortion for Down’s syndrome to Northern Ireland, this will likely see even more babies in the UK screened out by termination.

 

This is a law that is being imposed withut consultation or ethical consideration, likely leading to a big increase in abortion for disability in Northern Ireland, and would reduce the numbers of our already very small community. This is discrimination and will have a devastating impact on the community of people with Down’s syndrome.

 

We are asking that you ensure that selective abortion for Down’s syndrome, which will have such great consequences for our community, is not introduced to Northern Ireland.

 

Given the profoundly negative impact resulting from this change in legislation, the failure to reconvene the Northern Ireland Assembly even for just one day (which is all that is required to stop these discriminatory proposals going ahead) would constitute as gross a failure of governance on the part of the leaders of the Northern Ireland political parties as the failure of the Westminster Parliament who passed this ill-conceived legislation in the first place.

 

You can take action in your role as leaders and not be responsible for directly standing by to allow a change in law that would be discriminating against our community and likely lead to many more babies with Down’s syndrome being aborted in a time of equality. We are writing to ask you to act to ensure this does not go ahead.

 

Michelle and Arlene, please do the right thing. Don’t screen us out. Put your differences aside and bring back Stormont before October 21st.

SIGN THE OPEN LETTER NOW

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