It is suspicious anomalies in a specific lobe of our brain that give us away and so that organ must be almost totally formed, meaning we are well into the third trimester before the anomaly is detected. When surgery is done on babies after 15 weeks the foetus needs an anaesthetic. That is only done on babies that are wanted.
I was 49 when I was diagnosed as autistic. In re-orientating my life to understand this I began reading the history of disabled people. One of the books I discovered was: ‘Hitler’s Forgotten Victims: The Holocaust and the Disabled’ by Suzanne. E. Evans. The book is an account of the Nazis’ systematic execution of approximately 200,000 children and adults who were deemed ‘life unworthy of life’. It is a book that I had to force myself to read, the content is absolutely unbearable – one part recounts the stories of children with physical or mental disabilities given up by willing parents to be starved to death on special hospital wards, surrounded by Doctors and nurses who should have fought to keep them alive.
Another part of the book describes the festivities held by the staff of one killing centre in 1941 when they murdered their 10,000th victim. A young man with hydrocephalus was killed in a gas chamber. His corpse was decorated with fresh flowers and then hurled into the crematorium to much laughter and wild applause. Some of the staff read mock eulogies and then continued to drink alcohol late into the night, dancing to the music of a polka band specially booked for the happy occasion.
I remember closing the book in tears for those poor people, and I have to admit thanking God I was not born in Germany in the 1930s and lived in a much more humanitarian time and place.
That was before I learnt about Disabled Selective Abortions. The 1967 Abortion Act allows mothers to execute their unborn child if: “There is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped“
Even ignoring the incredibly offensive nature of the term ‘handicapped’ – which derives from the idea of disabled people going ‘cap in hand’ begging for money – the term ‘seriously handicapped’ is deliberately vague and has been interpreted to mean any unborn human showing signs of being disabled can be legally killed before birth.
Now it is tempting here to list the great contributions disabled people have made to human progress as a rebuttal to those who deem us ‘life unworthy of life’, but that misses the point – all human life is of worth, whatever the contribution they are able to make.
What is even worse is that whilst a non disabled unborn child can be executed ‘only’ up to 24 weeks, a disabled unborn child can be executed right up until birth.
To be put this in context Lucy Letby a nurse who worked at the Countess of Chester hospital was charged with murdering seven babies and faces 15 attempted murder charges involving ten more children. It is highly likely that she will face the rest of her life in prison and has been castigated around the world as the very epitome of evil. However, Letby was working in the neonatal unit where many of the babies under her care would have been premature, meaning they had not been carried to full term. If Letby had instead worked at an abortion clinic and had killed disabled children in the womb, then she could have killed children who were older than some of her victiims and were only minutes from being born and she would have been called a hero or an angel, just like the people at the Nazi killing centre thought they were.
If a disabled person is allowed to live though, woe betide them if they themselves get pregnant. In the UK in 2019, a woman with learning disabilities was told by a court that, against her will, her unborn child would be executed at 22 weeks. This was despite the pregnant woman’s mother and main care giver also being against the abortion, and saying she would provide all the care necessary. Justice Nathalie Lieven decided that the pregnant woman couldn’t understand the challenges of being a mother, and ‘Wanted a baby in the same way she wanted a nice doll’. Thankfully this was overturned at the last minute by three judges at the Court of Appeal as the pre-operative stage of the abortion procedure was happening but the fact that the initial ruling did happen indicates a concerning trajectory in modern healthcare to see disabilities or lower than average mental capacity to be somehow an indication of inferiority.
The ideas behind this abortion policy are clearly rooted in the same 20th century eugenics thinking that Hitler had: the creation of a master race of physically and mentally ‘perfect’ human beings, unhindered by the ‘ballast’ of us lesser humans holding them back. This hideous inhuman thinking must be changed immediately – all life is worthy of life. Disabled people like me are part of the wonderful diversity of human life, not an inconvenience or burden.
What occurs to me is that this issue is partly connected to the way in which we rank and value people’s actual gifts. People with Down’s syndrome are known for their empathy and relational ability – and yet, rather than prizing this in an uncaring society, we look only at whether they will be able to go to university or train for a profession (which, in itself, may suggest that our approach to preparation for some professions is over-cerebral). Maybe one day a trisomy-21 screening result will be seen as enviable, because the child who is to be born will be a skilled mediator or relationship consultant . . .