In a disturbing statement released this week, the NI Human Rights Commission has said that a bill which would prohibit abortions on the basis of disabilities such as Down Syndrome is incompatible with humans rights law.
It is shocking but not surprising that abortion access is now being advanced under the guise of human rights. This is despite there being no mention of abortion in any international human rights treaty. In fact the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child explicitly mentions the unborn child when it states that “the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.“
The NI Human Rights Commission made the statement in response to a new bill in the NI Assembly which would amend the law on abortion in the North. The law as it currently stands permits abortion for non-fatal disabilities up till birth, which includes disabilities such as Down Syndrome and cleft palate. Paul Givan MLA’s Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill would seek to remedy this injustice by removing non-fatal disabilities as a grounds for abortion.
Despite the NI HRC’s deeply flawed legal analysis, the bill has received significant cross-party support in the Assembly, and was voted through 2nd stage in March with a large majority of 48 votes in favour to 12 against.