HL Deb 13 November 2001 vol 628 cc69-70WA
Lord Alton of Liverpool

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their response to the recent statement from the Disability Rights Commission that Section 1(1)(d) of the Abortion Act 1967 (as amended), in authorising abortion up to birth on grounds of handicap, is incompatible with the principle that disabled and able-bodied people should be treated equally; and whether they plan to introduce legislation to repeal Section 1(1)(d). [HL1137]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath)

The statement from the Disability Rights Commission highlighted the importance of ensuring that the context in which parents choose whether to have a child should be one in which disability and non-disability are valued equally and that parents receive comprehensive balanced information and guidance on disability, the rights of disabled people and on the support available. We are supportive of these aims and understand that the Disability Rights Commission plans to discuss this matter further with the Government, the medical professions and other relevant organisations. The statement indicates that addressing these issues should be given priority over any consideration of amendment to the Abortion Act.

It is important to note that under Section 1(1) of the Abortion Act 1967 disability is not the only grounds for permitting abortion up to birth. The Act also authorises abortion up to birth if two registered medical practitioners are of the opinion that the termination is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman greater than if the pregnancy were terminated.

It is accepted parliamentary practice that proposals for changes in the law on abortion have come from Back-Bench Members and that decisions are made on the basis of free votes. The Government have no plans to change the law on abortion.