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Welcome to the UK’s
campaign for equality

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We’re

all equal

We’re all equal. That’s what the law says, isn’t it?

Discrimination on the grounds of disability was made illegal more than 20 years ago when Parliament passed the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.  So it can’t happen. Right?

Wrong. It’s happening now. Today. It is the law.

Legal and lethal discrimination on grounds of disability has been a reality for almost 50 years. And it’s going to stay that way unless people like you help change the law and ensure disability can no longer be given as a reason for termination, right up to birth.

Ask yourself this simple question: where does disability discrimination start?

It starts before birth. It starts if the immediate response to a prenatal screening test that shows a disability diagnosis is to offer a termination. It starts with the prejudiced presumption that disability is a tragedy. (Tell that to our Paralympians.)

It starts with a law that specifically lists disability – or ‘handicap’ – as grounds for abortion and, to make the discrimination even more obvious (just in case you missed it), sets a ceiling of 24 weeks for termination if there’s no disability and explicitly removes the ceiling if there is a disability.

That’s right. Right. Up. To. Birth.

There is a recognised term for this. It’s called disability discrimination or section 1(1)(d) of the Abortion Act 1967 to be precise.

One other question: where does changing the law start?

It starts with you. Today. Now.

If you believe we’re all equal, if you think securing an end to discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, race, gender or disability is worth fighting for, please support the new Bill introduced by severely disabled member of the House of Lords, Lord Shinkwin. The Bill will receive its First Reading shortly, so please watch this space for news on how you can support the campaign.

why we need change now

The law promotes inequality

By stating that disability is grounds for termination up to birth, the law is promoting inequality. It would be internationally condemned if a country’s abortion laws singled out fetuses on the ground of gender or skin colour. Yet because it’s disability, it’s somehow ok? This is state-sanctioned, state-funded, state-sponsored inequality. It has to stop.

The law is inconsistent with disability discrimination legislation for after birth

It is completely inconsistent for Parliament to have passed a law (the Disability Discrimination Act 1995) which expressly prohibits discrimination on grounds of disability after birth while allowing another law, which expressly provides for lethal discrimination through termination on grounds of disability right up to birth, to remain on the statute book.

The law is out of date.

This provision is a throwback to a time when we had totally different attitudes to the inclusion and contribution of people with disabilities. You only have to look at the discriminatory language used by all sides of the debate in Parliament when this was discussed in 1967 and 1990 to realise how far attitudes have changed. We’ve moved on. The law hasn’t. It’s time it did.

Parliamentary Inquiry into abortion for disability

The 2013 parliamentary inquiry into abortion for disability found the vast majority of those who gave evidence believed allowing abortion up to birth on the grounds of disability is discriminatory, contrary to the spirit of the Equality Act and affects wider public attitudes towards discrimination. The inquiry recommended Parliament reviews the question of allowing abortion on the grounds of disability and should consider repealing section 1(1)(d) of the Abortion Act which allows for it. Lord Shinkwin’s modest and reasonable new Bill only seeks to amend section 1(1)(d) to equalise the 24-week time limit, so that it applies equally to non-disabled and disabled babies alike.

UK report on the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

The UK Initial Report on the CRPD noted the concerns of disability rights organisations under Article 10 UNCRPD (right to life): “concerns were expressed around the approach to abortion in the UK, where disabled people have suggested a bias towards termination of pregnancies if a child is likely to be disabled”.

The law reinforces negative stereotypes

The Disability Rights Commission (now the Equality and Human Rights Commission) have said this aspect of the Abortion Act “is offensive to many people; it reinforces negative stereotypes of disability…[and] is incompatible with valuing disability and non-disability equally”.

UN Committee condemns disability discrimination before birth

The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities have consistently criticised countries which provide for abortion in a way which distinguishes between fetuses on the basis of disability, most notably Austria, Hungary and Spain, citing Article 5 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (equality and non-discrimination provision).

How the law has been used in practice is not what Parliament intended

How the law has been used in practice to discriminate and introduce informal eugenics by stealth goes far beyond what Parliament intended when it passed the Abortion Act 1967 and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. The sheer scale of discrimination is borne out by Department of Health statistics published in May 2016, which show a marked increase across the board in terminations carried out on grounds of disability and after 24 weeks.

In England and Wales, there were 3,213* terminations on grounds of disability in 2015, up from 1,916* in 2005, with some years (2014 and 2012) showing increases of more than 10% on the previous year.

In the same period, the number of terminations after 24 weeks allowed on grounds of disability has increased by more than 67%, up from 137* to 230*. 2011 alone saw the number of terminations after 24 weeks increase by 27%. Up from 429* in 2005 to 689* in 2015, 2014 saw the number of terminations for Down’s syndrome increase by more than 10% in the space of just 12 months as new screening techniques became available privately.

In 2015, 11 terminations were carried out for cleft lip/palate. In 2013, the number of terminations for cleft lip/palate increased by 56%. Cleft lip/palate is an easily surgically rectifiable condition.

*A 2014 Department of Health review found evidence that there is significant under-reporting on the number of abortions for some fetal disabilities. These numbers are therefore likely to be significantly higher.

What difference would Lord Shinkwin’s Bill make?

His modest and reasonable new Bill would change the law in two ways. First, the 24-week time limit would no longer discriminate between non-disabled and disabled babies. The time limit would apply equally, not just in recognition of the significant social, attitudinal and medical advances made in the last 50 years and the fact that the vast majority of disabilities are now diagnosed before 24 weeks, but also in recognition that all human beings are of equal value, regardless of disability. Second, parents who have been given a disability diagnosis would also be given more support in the form of full and accurate information about the options, including information from disability family support groups and organisations led and controlled by disabled people.

It’s time Parliament looked at this again.

Discrimination by numbers

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terminations on grounds of disability in 2016*
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terminations after 24 weeks on ground of disability in 2016*
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increase in the number of terminations on grounds of disability after 24 weeks since 1995 (1995-2016)
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terminations for Down's syndrome in 2016*
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terminations for cleft lip/palate in 2016

*A 2014 Department of Health review found evidence that there is significant under-reporting on the number of abortions for some fetal disabilities. These numbers are therefore likely to be significantly higher. 

latest media & resources

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Care about disability equality? Take it to social media! Share our campaign with your friends and family. Remember to use the hashtag #allequal

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UK at the Paralympics 2016

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Athletes competed
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Athletes protected from disability discrimination after birth
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Athletes* protected from disability discrimination before birth

*Athletes born with a disability

Get Involved

We are looking for people to help out with running the campaign, feature in our campaign videos and photos, be spokespeople for media interviews, and for a range of other roles. We are looking for people with and without disabilities, but are especially looking for people with a disability to talk for videos and get involved with media. If you can help out in any way please add your details below and we’ll be in contact to work out how we can best get you involved.

GET INVOLVED

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who we are

In 2016, Lord Shinkwin, who is severely disabled himself, introduced a Bill into the House of Lords that proposes to remove s(1)(1)(d) from the 1967 Abortion Act, which allows abortion on the grounds of disability, right up to birth. This was sadly talked out. Lord Shinkwin’s modest and reasonable new Bill (for the 2017-2019 Parliamentary session) seeks instead only to equalise the 24-week time limit by amending section 1(1)(d), so that it applies equally to non-disabled and disabled babies alike. This is not just in recognition of the significant social, attitudinal and medical advances made in the last 50 years and the fact that the vast majority of disabilities are now diagnosed before 24 weeks, but also in recognition that all human beings are of equal value, regardless of disability. His Bill ensures that parents who have been given a disability diagnosis would also be given more support in the form of full and accurate information about the options, including information from disability family support groups and organisations led and controlled by disabled people.

The ‘We’re All Equal’ campaign is run by people with disabilities, their families and supporters. We support changing the law to recognise the intrinsic equal right of every disabled human being to exist as the fundamental right from which all others flow.

Please watch this space for news on how you can get involved in the campaign.

To contact us for media comment or learn more about the campaign, email contact@allequal.org.uk