On 15th June the House of Lords debated the Government’s “Abortion (Northern Ireland) (No. 2) Regulations 2020”. The Rt Revd James Newcome, Bishop of Carlisle, spoke in support of an amendment to negative the Regulations, highlighting its effects on abortion on grounds of disability. In two subsequent votes, he and other bishops voted against, but the House of Lords passed the Regulations without amendment by large majorities.
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, I support the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, and will focus on the proposal in Regulation 7 that abortion for disabilities including Down’s syndrome should be available during the first 12 weeks without question or counselling and then potentially through to birth.
The General Synod of the Church of England has overwhelmingly approved a motion on valuing people with this syndrome. We have worked closely with people such as Heidi Crowter, who has Down’s syndrome and has already been widely quoted in the House of Commons calling on MPs and Peers not to vote for regulations that, in her words, “contain discriminatory provisions”.
If we approve these regulations we will be in the contradictory position of declaring on the one hand that people living with disability are valued, respected and cherished, but on the other that any disability—which can be a very broad concept—in and of itself, and regardless of other considerations, constitutes an automatic ground for termination.