I was sorry to see that an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill has been moved in the Lords, to remove the right to abortion on grounds of foetal abnormality. At the moment late abortion is permitted if tests suggest the baby will be seriously disabled, so pregnant women can make the decision to have an abortion if they discover their baby has a serious disability.
The amendment was tabled by Baroness Masham of Ilton, who said it was unacceptable for babies to be aborted for disabilities that can now be treated after advances in medical science. It is very understandable that Lady Masham should feel as she does.
Nevertheless, I must agree with the Antenatal Results and Choices charity, which said it was unthinkable that parents should be forced to have a disabled child when they felt they could not cope, or when the baby was likely to die at the time of birth.
I should have thought pregnancy was a difficult enough thing to go through without its being forced on someone who does not want to have the baby. The emotional and mental turmoil of being forced to carry the child through to term, and then give birth to it could cause great unhappiness and possibly damage to the woman, and to the marriage or partnership. It is also, of course, an assault on a woman’s rights over her own body.