Discretion, Discrimination, and the Death Sentence.

The Royal College of Midwives recently announced their support for a campaign run by abortion provider the BPAS (British Pregnancy Advisory Service) calling for the legalisation of abortion up to birth for ANY reason. But what many people do not realise is that abortion up to birth is already legal … for some foetuses.

This is sometimes referred to as Ground E abortion. Ground E was a provision in the 1967 Abortion Act to allow for the termination of a foetus after 24 weeks gestation if: ‘there is substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped’. But no specific definition of this term is included in the law. It is left to the discretion of clinicians to decide what constitutes ‘serious handicap’. Clinicians who, while they have great experience fo caring for expectant mothers and unborn or newly-born babies, may well not have any real-life experience of ‘disability’. This has led to some doctors concluding that a pre-natal diagnosis on f Down’s Syndrome, or Cleft Palate,  is sufficient grounds to offer the expectant mother a termination beyond the usual 24-week limit. Neither of these conditions causes ‘serious handicap’, and while it cannot be denied that they both present challenges, they are challenges that can be overcome, increasingly so as medicine advances and the value of early medical and educational intervention becomes widely  recognised. Even when surgery is required, neither ‘condition’ usually produces such devastating effects that quality of life is reduced to the point where they would be better off dead! Quality of life is subjective anyway. If you think I don’t know what I’m talking about, then I recommend you ask someone living with one of these ‘conditions’ (and yes, they will be able to give you a reasonable answer).

My own personal feelings about abortion are ambivalent. While I would hesitate to remove the right from another woman, whose desperate circumstances I have no knwoledge of, and do not have to live with, I am still deeply uncomfortable with the fact of it. Much is made of ‘a woman’s right to choose’. But what about the unborn chil’s right to life? There is now strong scientific evidence available that demonstrates that not only do unborn babies feel pain, but they feel it more intensely than an adult, or even a newborn; they are also able to feel pain from, at the earliest, 20 weeks gestation, and most probably even earlier. When life-saving intrauterine surgery is performed on a foetus (post 16 weeks gestation), then both mother and baby are given anaesthetic.When a baby is aborted at any stage of pregnancy, it is not given anaesthetic.

The only thing I am certain of in the abortion debate is that the legal threshold for termination should be the same for all foetuses. Unborn disabled children deserve the same protection under the law, the same right to life, as non-disabled unborn children. Anything else is discrimination.

When, in a speech to the House of Lords, Lord Shinkwin announced his intention to promot a bill to outlaw such discriminatory abortions — his Abortion (Disablility Equality) Bill — he is quoted as saying:

‘…For me (Lord Shinkwin), a one-nation society is one that does not discriminate on account of disability — a society in which disability equality is a consistent realitu…. It (his Private Memb?

ers Bill) concerns an area where, unbelievably the diagnosis of disability carries a death sentence … It is illegal for an unborn human being tohave their life ended by abortion beyond 24 weeks, but if they have a disability their life can be ended right up to birth by law. Where is the consistency, the justice, or the equality in that? … imagine the outcry if the same were applied to skin colour or sexual orientation? … If every child is to have the ‘best start in life’ … disabled children must first be given an equal chance to live.’

I know that there are people out there who would disagree. I wonder, if we changed the terminology around late-term (post 24-weeks) ‘abortion, and called it what it really is — *pre-natal euthanasia* — how many of them would start to see things differently?

*Except that euthanasia is supposed to be painless.*

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SUN, SEA, SAND, AND SPECIAL NEEDS.

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Back in April I posted SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO, about my desire to go on a foreign holiday for the first time in my married life:

” ‘You’ll never be able to go on holiday again.’ That was just one of the gloomy predictions made to us in the early days of Freddie’s life. I was determined that our family life would not be one long and narrow vale of martyrdom to his ‘disability’. Sod resigning ourselves to ‘Holland’, we’d bloody well go to Italy if that’s what we wanted to do — or anywhere else we chose, for that matter. But the first battle on my hands would be persuading certain other family members, creatures of habit and reluctant travellers, that we could, and should, venture outside the UK … Not willing to give up and yield to yet another damp and shivering holiday in the UK, I announced this Saturday morning that I thought, while we were in town, it might be a good idea to visit a Travel Agent to do some ‘research’. After some initial reluctance, we went … The manager suggested that Menorca might suit us very well (having been there herself a number of times), and in a few minutes had put together a week-long package that looked perfect. There was just one problem — it was for the end of next month. No time at all to ‘think about it’ (while I embarked on some gentle and persistent persuasion). I held my breath … Daddy put his credit card on the table. ‘We’ll take it.’ I’m super-excited at the prospect of some real sun on my back for the first time in the twenty-odd years we’ve been together. I’ve travelled with friends when I was young, free and single, but I’ve never travelled outside the Uk with children in tow — and Freddie is a real bundle of mischeif — and never with my husband either … One way and another this promises to be quite an adventure …”

Daddy, however, was apparently not looking forward to it. He was filled with dread at the prospect of a stressful journey (the busy and confusing airport environment, the flight itself), followed by a week spent in an unfamiliar country, and all whilst trying to keep Freddie safe and manage his often challenging behaviour.

I bought Freddie a cute monkey backpack with wheels, and stuffed it full of toys, inclusing a couple of new ones which were kept as surprises for when we got on the plane, and little children’s ‘magazines’ full of activities and stickers. Because we needed to set off at stupid o’clock in the morning I got all the suitcases packed two days in advance, and, congratulating myself on being super-efficient and organised, directed Daddy to load the car the night before. I put Freddie to bed in joggers and a t-shirt comfy enough to sleep in, but presentable enough for travel, so that all we would have to do would be to lift him gently from his bed, carry him carefully to his car-seat and cover him with a blanket. He could then go back to sleep having barely noticed the transfer.

Myself, Daddy and Big Sister were up before cock-crow. We got ourselves washed and dressed without waking Freddie. Big Sister and I waited downstairs while Daddy went to get him.

‘Oh God!’

They do say you should be careful what you wish for … and we had been wishing that the increased dose of laxatives once again needed to deal with Freddie’s tendency to constipation would work before our holiday. Our prayers had been answered – TEN MINUTES before our holiday. Despite the presence of a nappy, his ideal sleep/travel outfit had suffered the consequences. There was nothing for it but to strip him off, wash him down and put him in a fresh set of clothes. Somewhat disgruntled at the rude awakening, he did his best impression of a greased eel (greased with poop, I might add). It took two of us to wrestle him into cleanliness and new clothes.

Our eldest son had chosen not to come with us. I stuck my head round his door to tell him goodbye, we’d miss him, and would he mind sticking a load in the washing machine when he got up.

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And we were off. Meanwhile, Freddie’s demeanor had gone from surly and unco-operative to bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and looking for distractions. Luckily I had made us all packed-lunch breakfasts, so, at four in the morning he began gleefully tucking into sandwiches under the tender care of his big sister. No wonder it took Daddy three-and-a-half hours to clean the car when we got back.

I must say, I did a considerably better job of navigating than the so-called Sat Nav, which seems to think Manchester and Liverpool are the same place, and whose idea of giving directions is to say ‘turn slightly right soon’ (said, appropriately, in the soothing, but banal tones of a twenty-five-year-old blonde female. Would it give more accurate instructions if we left it in the robot voice? I was disappointed when we put it in the Australian voice and it DIDN’T say ‘turn right in five hundred yards, ya Pommie Pooftah!’).

A little after five o’clock we arrived at the dreaded airport …