By Heather Clark
LONDON — A lawmaker in the U.K. who was born with a rare bone disorder lamented before parliament last week that people such as himself are “facing extinction” as he spoke of his bill to close a loophole in the law that allows for selective abortion based on disability.
Kevin Shinkwin, who serves in the House of Lords, had presented a bill that would remove section 1(1)(d) from the 1967 Abortion Act, which permits mothers—up to birth—to end the life of their unborn child 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.”
Shinkwin himself suffers from brittle bone disease.
“I readily admit that math was never my favorite subject at school, but even I can see from the trends in abortion on grounds of disability that the writing is on the wall for people like me,” he said. “People with congenital disabilities are facing extinction. If we were animals, perhaps we might qualify for protection as an endangered species. But we are only human beings with disabilities, so we don’t qualify.”Shinkwin pointed to the 2016 Rio Paralymics, and noted that the very same disabilities that qualify a person for the games are the same that could get them killed in the womb under the law.
“Our Paralympians represented their country in Rio with pride. [What was] the essential qualification for them competing at Rio? Their disability. Their country applauded their success—the same country whose law regards that essential qualification for going to Rio—disability—as a reason why they should die,” he outlined.
“How, my lords, is that fair, is that right, is that logical? It is none of those,” Shinkwin proclaimed.
“By rights, my lords, I shouldn’t be here. I should be dead,” Shinkwin said. “[W]ere a younger, unborn version of me to be detected in the womb today, Section 1(1)d of the act and his Department’s search and destroy approach to screening would make me a prime candidate for abortion.”He noted that there were 689 abortions in 2015 due to a Down syndrome diagnosis, and 11 abortions for “cleft lip or palate, an easily surgically rectifiable condition.” 230 abortions were past 24 weeks. In all, 3,213 babies in the UK lost their lives due to a disability diagnosis.