On 27th January 2017 Lord Shinkwin’s Abortion (Disability Equality) Bill was considered in Committee in the House of Lords. An amendment from Baroness Massey of Darwen, requiring the Secretary of State to review “the impact of this Act on disabled children, their families and carers, and the provision of support services” was debated and accepted. The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, supported the amendment and the overall purpose of the Bill:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I was unable to be present at Second Reading but my noble friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol spoke on this matter, welcoming the Bill, and I add my support. I also welcome the amendment because I believe that, as others have already said, such a review would be very helpful.
One reason has just been demonstrated, although the noble Baroness would not have known this at the time; that is, the figure she quoted for the number of abortions that took place in this category after 24 weeks is different from the one that I have been supplied with. That said, the number is not hugely different. The point is that a relatively small number of abortions take place in category E after 24 weeks. If I understand it correctly, the noble Baroness’s amendment would apply not just after the 24-week period but to the Act as a whole. That review would be very welcome because we do not know exactly what is going on.
The Bill is primarily about the rights of the disabled. It is really important that we move to recognising that if we believe viability is at 24 weeks, it is 24 weeks for all foetuses and none should be excluded from that. That is why I support the Bill as a whole.