Stop late term abortion of babies with Down Syndrome
This petition had 9,104 supporters
Thanks to advance in medical sciences, education and psychological research, people with Down Syndrome can now look forward to live a long healthy life. More and more people with Down Syndrome are living independently with varying degree of support and in paid or voluntary work. Most adults with Down Syndrome can read and write. However, these progress does not seem to be recognised by the medical profession. According to the abortion statistics of UK for 2014, there were 12 late term abortions due to Down Syndrome on ground E (https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/abortion-statistics-england-and-wales-2014 Ground E was provided by the 1967 Abortion Act to give permission of abortion after 24 weeks of gestation (i.e. the baby may be able to survive out of the womb) if ‘There is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped’. The law did not give a clear definition of ‘seriously handicapped’ but it requires two doctors acted in good faith to agree on the individual case. It suggested that some doctors believe if a child with Down Syndrome is born, he or she will have a high risk of being seriously handicapped. We have heard of women being offered abortion as late as 37 weeks of pregnancy because of a diagnosis of Down Syndrome but they decided to keep the babies and as a result had healthy children, albeit with an extra chromosome. An parliamentary inquiry into abortion on the grounds of disability was published in 2013 (http://www.abortionanddisability.org/resources/Abortion-and-Disability-Report-17-7-13.pdf and the need for repealing ground E or reducing the upper time limit for abortion was mentioned but no action was taken to date. We acknowledge that RCOG has done a lot in recent years to update their members about the condition. However, by continuing to allow its members to offer late term abortion using Ground E, it sends out a signal to parents and the wider public that Down Syndrome is a serious condition which results in serious handicap and suffering. Therefore, we would like to see a stop on late term abortion of babies with Down Syndrome and would like RCOG to issue clear guidelines that unless there are coexisting conditions that are not treatable and incompatible to lives, Ground E should not be applied.
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