PRESS RELEASE: Lord Shinkwin’s Abortion (Disability Equality) Bill receives first reading

Speaking following the First Reading of his new Private Member’s Bill on disability equality, severely disabled Member of the House of Lords, Kevin Shinkwin, said:

“The equal right to exist is the most fundamental disability right of all. It is the benchmark of equality. Without it all other rights are academic because you have to be born to exercise them.

“It’s therefore a tragedy and a cause of great shame that in 21st century Great Britain, too many human beings are systematically denied that right solely on account of their disability. Whatever a person’s position on the wider issue of abortion, there is no way that such a situation can be described as equality. We need to stop paying lip-service to equality and change the law for before birth to bring it into line with the law as it applies to disability discrimination after birth.

His Bill would help do that by equalising the 24-week ceiling for termination for both non-disabled and disabled human beings. 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. The Bill would also ensure that parents who have been given a disability diagnosis would be given more support in the form of full, accurate and balanced information about the options, including information from disability family support groups and organisations led and controlled by disabled people.

Lord Shinkwin added, “We are in denial if we think it’s somehow ok to tell people born disabled that we recognise their equality when, as a society, we’re doing all we can to ensure they never see the light of day. I urge all organisations and individuals who believe in genuine equality, rather than just disability equality on non-disabled people’s terms, to support my Bill.”