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How can you cheer for our Paralympians and support Britain’s abortion laws?

There’s a chilling discrepancy between our attitudes towards Paralympians and disabled babies

By on Friday, 31 August 2012

Natalia Partyka is competing in both the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics (AP)

Natalia Partyka is competing in both the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics (AP)

I attended a 21st birthday party last month where the birthday girl sat on her mum’s knee because she will never walk. Compared with the standard birthday girl experience, involving vodka, tears and vomit, it was the happiest 21st I have experienced so far.

Commentators this week have made grave pronouncements about the rights of the disabled, despite the celebratory atmosphere engulfing London as it hosts the 2012 Paralympics. Many have been swift to suggest that the Government’s support for Paralympians reeks of hypocrisy following cuts to disabled living allowances. One commentator suggested that the Prime Minister David Cameron should be met with cries of “shame” and another called for an “end to this disabled apartheid”. They are very keen to highlight the Government’s gushing duplicity. Yet when listing the forms of discrimination which the disabled face, aren’t they forgetting the most obvious?

Imagine this scenario. Tomorrow, a pregnant woman will be told, following a scan, that her child will be born without a right arm. What will the doctor advise? And how many cheerleaders for the Paralympics would agree that aborting the baby would be an act of kindness?

Let’s say that the doctor’s next patient is an excited expectant mother. The doctor has to tell her that he suspects her baby has a spinal condition and will be unable to walk. Again, what will the doctor recommend?

Natalia Partyka was born without a right hand and forearm. She won her first international table tennis medal at the disabled world championship when she was 10. She has won more than 30 medals since. Steve Brown is Great Britain’s wheelchair rugby captain. Following an accident he broke his neck and trapped his spinal chord and is now paralysed from the chest down.

Both these individuals smash the convenient myth that aborting a disabled child is an act of mercy that cut shorts a miserable, undignified and frustrating life. This specious argument is incessantly advanced to justify Britain’s abortion law, which allows abortion up to birth if the child is “severely disabled” (but in practice covers easily corrected conditions such as cleft palates).

Whatever your view of abortion, if you support equal rights for disabled people pause to consider what sort of process is necessary to abort a child weeks, or even days, before he or she would be born.

According to Abortion Review: “Dilatation and evacuation (D&E) is the surgical procedure of choice. A D&E involves removal of the fetus and placenta through an artificially dilated cervix using a combination of forceps and vacuum aspiration.”

In other words, following the dilation of the woman’s cervix, the baby is removed with forceps piece by piece.

Barbaric procedure aside, who is highlighting the discrimination that disabled people face at the most fundamental level? If a baby is disabled he or she can be aborted up to birth. But if a baby is healthy he or she cannot be aborted after 24 weeks. If the National Health Service introduced a policy whereby disabled children were automatically at the bottom of the list for organ donation or any other life-sustaining treatment there would quite rightly be a national outcry. But you won’t hear a whisper from the noisy egalitarians about the shocking discrimination embedded in Britain’s abortion laws.

Before we, the benevolent Paralympic hosts, congratulate ourselves on being the midwives of diversity, let’s pause to weigh up this chilling discrepancy and ponder if support for our Paralympians rings hollow.

  • Hamish Redux

    Excellent article.These things need to be said, and ever more loudly.

  • LocutusOP

    Self-deception and possibly self-hypnosis.

    History has proved that there is no end to the cruelty people will inflict on others – and it’s even easier when you wrap it around in self-appeasing terms and completely avoid the reality of the carnage.

  • Wildone

    I am handicapped myself due to a working accident  and allthough i live in my view ( others might not be able to live with the disability or constant pain i have to live with) a fairly good life , i learned that there are limits for everyone , some might be easily reached , some may be difficult to reach and this is different from person to person. Everybody has the right to make the decision where that line lies for themselves. So allthough i do not condone or condemn these decisions , everyone is free to make that choice for themselves. On the matter of goverment , they allways have to walk the fine line between both parties and to try to make policy that is in the interest of the people. Sometimes this doesn’t happen and even more oftenly are these decisions rarely checked if the people are following them. In any way , ya can never make everyone happy on this planet , we can only try to respect everyones person and choices or decisions ( if not illegal offcourse) 

  • Jenni Hutchinson

    I find it hard to believe that someone would abort a child due to a physical disability such as having only one arm or being able to walk. Everyone knows that these disabilities are more manageable than ever before. However, when a 17 year old girl in Ireland was told she was going to have a baby that had no head and would die as soon as it was born, lawyers acted quickly to impose an injunction to prevent her from travelling to England for an abortion. What possible justification is there for forcing her to carry such a child to full term? If the ‘severe disability’ clause is being implemented incorrectly and allowing people to abort because of a less severe condition, then enforce it properly to prevent this abuse. Don’t force women to carry non-viable children for any longer than they have to.

  • kentgeordie

    Well said. Let’s all keep saying it.

  • Lovehope

    I don’t agree with the view that someone would no be old to abort a child who is mildly disabled! I know a couple who were told to have an abortion because there’s. 40% chance the baby with be autistic… So a 60% chance of a baby without autism. I’m sorry not sold, doctors have no right to tell vunerable parents to kill their baby! People always bring up these worst case senario slippery slope arguments about what if the mother will die… That’s a different situation to aborting a disabled child!

  • David Armitage

    pause to weigh up this chilling discrepancy and ponder if support for our Paralympians rings hollow.
    The CH obsession is disgusting. Pregnancies terminate spontaneously. Still births happen. Modern medecine overrides what occurs naturally, although tragically. Lifting up skirts to find abortions, contraceptions, and all possible variations on geriatric celibates’ fevered imaginations on natural law does little to advance the gospel of Christ.Emetic.

  • Kelsey Arnold

    Can you really not see the difference between a spontaneous miscarriage and a deliberate abortion? When I went through catechism classes to become classes, my priest told me that sin is in the will. The will, intent, and desire of an elective abortion could not be more different from those of miscarriage and still birth. To equate them is a slap in the face to every mother who has lost a child.

  • Kelsey Arnold

     Is it really? So often, babies are “diagnosed” with  conditions they don’t really have or are born with conditions that the doctors didn’t foresee. Now, some countries have “wrongful birth” or “wrongful life” lawsuits in the courts, where parents actually sue the doctors for not telling them about an issue that would have spurred them to abort.

  • Kelsey Arnold

     The problem with abortion is that the parents aren’t making those choices for themselves–they’re making the decision for their baby. They are deciding that the baby would be better off dead than disabled. Why not give the kid a chance and let him or her decide?

  • Cjkeeffe

    Hi may be they can reconcile this “double think” in the same way that some peopel in the US argue against abortion buyt in favour of capitalpunishment. Despite Pope John Paul II holding the view that capital punishment was no longer a tenable position?

  • Ben Trovato

    Yes, this is shocking discrimination; to see that clearly, just replace ‘severely handicapped’ with any other adjective in the legislation: “Abortion is illegal after 24 weeks, except in the case of (black/white/mixed race/Christian/Jewish/Moslem/Hindu/Gay/illegitimate [delete as applicable]) babies, who may be aborted up to birth.”

  • praedicator

     If you don’t like the Catholic Herald, why do you read it?   You have a choice, don’t you?  But the children who are killed before birth don’t even have that amount of choice – to read the Catholic Herald, and raise their blood-pressure a bit, and spew out a bit of bile agianst priests (though I suspect with a name like Madelaine there is little chance the author of this article is a priest), is not an option they have before them.  The comment of Christ on little children was that they should be allowed to come to him, not that they should be destroyed in their mothers womb without that option being available to them in this life.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    > The CH obsession is disgusting. Pregnancies terminate spontaneously. Still births happen.

    Yes, people die. Welcome to the real world.

    That does not mean abortion is OK. By your logic, we could murder seniors, because they are close to death anyway.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    And don’t think that these abortions are rare.
    For Down syndrome diagnostics, >90% of kids are aborted.

    We are smartphone-using, airplane-traveling barbarians.

  • Rei

    Good job appropriating the disabled for your cause, CH. Stay classy!

  • Adela

     The fact that such cases are brought to court in some countries does not turn them into “good causes”. Think about blasphemy laws, and the many cases of Christians accused of blasphemy basically for the sole reason that they’re … Christians.

  • daclamat

    Grunenthal. Distillers. Thalidomide. Your concern for unborn children would gain in credibility if you had joined in the campaign for compensation for surving victims. It’s still not too late to take up the cause of survivors.

  • daclamat

    Dogs foul pavements. I find this disgusting. Logically (yours not mine) I should walk in the road.

  • Samkelly72

    Yes, that’s all very well, but how many of these para-olympians are severely mentally handicapped?!!   They are either people that have been injured in accidents, soldiers who have lost limbs or people that were born PHYSICALLY handicapped, people that still have a quality of life and are not trapped in a dark lifeless hole.    

  • theroadmaster

    This piece makes a very pertinent point in relation to the obvious dichotomy between society’s declared aim to safeguard and promote legally the integrity and worth of those who are physically or mentally handicapped, and the same society’s tolerance of the destruction of lives in the womb on account of those same disabilities.  This hypocrisy should be exposed on a far greater scale than it previously has been and should be used by pro-life campaigners to challenge those who are able to indulge with a clear conscience in this type of cognitive dissonance.

  • Daniel McCarthy

    If he could spell ‘medicine’ then he might be able to comment on modern practice.GBS ( Armitage likes pseudo-acronyms) described people like him as “the half-educated”). He is ignorant of ethics and logic.
    An avid reader of Peter Singer, I should guess.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    You didn’t even try to make sense there.

  • Oconnord

    In what country did that test for autism take place? Pre-natal tests for autism are still experimental. Autism can’t normally be diagnosed until 2-4 years after birth in “normal” medicine. So it’s questionable that any normal couple would have a pregnancy screening, and then be given a 40% diagnosis. It is not a standard test in the Western world. 

    Can you give links to the actuality of these tests? 

  • Meena

    “We are smartphone-using, airplane-traveling barbarians.”

    Speak for yourself! 

  • Kelsey Arnold

     I completely agree that they’re not good causes. I am shocked and saddened every time I read about one. My point was that aborting a child that “might be” disabled versus one that “is” disabled isn’t as clear as we’d like to think it is. Doctors aren’t fortune tellers, and medical science is not magic. There is no way to know everything–as a result, the doctors get taken to court because a baby is alive whose parents would prefer it to be dead (aborted).

  • Kelsey Arnold

     Dark lifeless hole? Is that what the 90% of Down Syndrome babies would live in if they had survived to be born?

  • Ajbeswick

    This is a big topic it all seems clear cut but is it? I  do not personally believe that people should be able to have abortions because it does not fit in with their lifestyle,or because they have an imperfect child.Society needs to change,so many people do not understand disability and there are varying degrees.when i was growing up i had never met a disabled person it was not talked about,then i had a friend in senior school who had an adopted sister,it was then that i realised not all children are born perfect.People do not realise the implications of an abortion both from a physical or physchological aspect especially if you have an unplanned pregnancy.society re-education needs to start in schools and to meet women who have been through this procedure so reality really hits home,saying that we are all individuals and every persons reasons are different for having an abortion this should not be confused with miscarriages which is the body saying something is wrong and a very unpleasant experience.Sometimes the decision is made for you by a doctor for your own welfare,or because you are too young  or because being pregnant becomes life threatening.We need to see disabled people in their own right as real people and go beyond just seeing the disablement,how far have we progressed as a society with issues that we view are not normal such as disability,not far the wheels of change move very slowly.Ignorance and fear are very prominant within our society you see so many people poking fun of disabled and vulnerable people maybe because that is how their family view disability so they follow by example,you need to connect with disabled people in order to understand and this should be done within schools so that we get an excepting society and not view them as freaks as they did in victorian society.On a final note on abortion have we created a promiscuous society where sex outside marriage is accepted as the norm,should we be giving girls as young as 13 the pill with or without parental consent?do young people get blase about contraception, and think there is no way i am  going to get pregnant, so they take risks and on the whole they end up having an abortion,not realising how it could affect later pregnancies.We should not judge as christians or non christians but always find out the facts as to why a person has chosen to abort the pregnancy,for instance if a women has been raped either by an unknown  person, or their husband or partner should we condemn the person for having an abortion as the baby has been created by force and not out of love.Should we take a step back and review our way of thinking to see a wider picture it’s upto the individual on how they view this topic.      

  • cephas2

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful to read similar articles in the secular press? 

  • Peter Hardy


  • Ejpark

    Sadly I’ve worked in a gynae unit where such things were suggested, after all we routinely abort for Downs Syndrome which may involve a wide spectrum of disability. However I do agree that enforcing the law is the way forward.

  • Patrickhowes

    Who decides waht is viable and non viable?Not you and if you are a Catholic,you simply cannot make statements like this.The bay may not have a hand,a head or whatever but it has the most beautiful of all things,a soul which makes it spiritually unique albeit its physical state is not perfect.Let God decide why he does things 

  • Parasum

    “How can you cheer for our Paralympians and support Britain’s abortion laws?”

    ## Someone doing both things would not be acting illogically – there is no contradiction between the two things.

    Equally, there is no contradiction between doing the former, and rejecting the latter. 

    What could introduce inconsistency between doing both, is not the actions themselves, but having an outlook on life that makes doing the former and rejecting the latter inconsistent: one’s outlook on life, not one’s views on this or that specific issue within one’s outlook on life, is what would make the two courses  of action inconsistent. The courses of action themselves are not inconsistent, but logically entirely consistent.

    That is the logic of the matter. Since people are not governed purely by considerations of logicality & consistency, but can in practice act in profoundly inconsistent & illogical ways, it is entirely possible for people to come to very different & logically incompatible conclusions as to how they act concerning those two issues. Some may reject both; some may reject neither; some may reject the former but not the latter; some may reject the latter but not the former. And members of all four groups could be acting in complete harmony with the  logic of their outlook on life.

    Four more groups could be comprised of those who have given little attention to forming logically consistent views on these issues; a ninth might have given these matter no thought at all. These five last groups are the people to whom the question is addressed; the four first groups already have logically consistent positions on these two issues.  

  • Parasum

    To reject abortion while affirming the fittingness. permittedness, or goodness of capital punishment  need not be in any way inconsistent, either logically, or as a matter of specifically Christian ethics.

    It is certainly possible to be inconsistent in favouring capital punishment while rejecting abortion – but whether this inconsistency makes that position illogical or immoral or unChristian, depends on how these two positions fit into the view on life of the person holding them. And as people have very different “mental furniture”, one person’s  position may be a chaotic mess whatever his views on either issue, while someone else of the same religion or other outlook on life may be entirely consistent in his views.

    The Pope’s words of prudential judgement are open to many objections  which he did not even try to resolve. They are of no weight at all as doctrine. That is in addition to his blunder of giving a prudential judgement on the question of the death penalty in a catechism, of all places. His views are of no importance at all – as a Pope, his business was to teach to all the faithful not the personal ideas of the Polish theologian Karol Wojtyla,but the doctrine of Jesus Christ. This quite apart from the Pope’s utter failure to teach in continuity with, and fidelity to, the traditional doctrine of the Church. The Pope is not above the Tradition of the Church, or the Church itself – he is its custodian and witness & transmitter, not its creator & lord. If the Pope is to give any prudential judgements, he cannot & must not contaminate an instrument of Catholic teaching or worship with them. The greatness of a holy Pope like Venerable Pius XII is that he did not intrude his private opinions into his encyclicals – he taught what he had received, and did not presume to teach his own judgements as doctrine. The timing of the definition of the Assumption, and the decision to define it, were both prudential judgements – but they did not enter into the the definition itself. It is true regardless of the prudence of defining it. But in CCC 2565, a prudential judgement is part of the text, where it has no place.  That this has caused a lot of confusion to Catholics, is well-known.

  • Parasum

    “I find it hard to believe that someone would abort a child due to a
    physical disability such as having only one arm or being unable to walk.”

    ## That’s the consumer society for you. People become commodities, and are expected to behave as commodities. This is a completely unrealistic expectation, so it causes many problems. If a child were a computer, Windows & Apple would go bust within a year:

    The foetus doesn’t come with a 28-day warranty; it can’t be returned to sender; there is no purchaser’s label saying “Don’t forget our money back guarantee if not completely delighted and satisfied within 30 days after payment”; there is no free trial of the product;  there is no undertaking that if it is not fully functional it will be replaced. No refund is possible. It’s not even possible, on the whole, to order or buy spare parts. It’s not even true that What You See Is What You Get – many of the running problems are unmistakably apparent only once the product has been in use for a while. There’s no MOT, the running costs are astronomical,and the product can’t be re-booted. It’s fragile. The sound files are very sturdy but very unpredictable, and there are no volume controls – the sound has to be monitored by the customer; which is not always possible. The product in almost constant use, and this typically results in a great deal of incidental degradation of both the hardware & the software.

    The product is messy, leaks a wide variety of fluids, needs to be covered to avoid damage, requires constant maintenance. And not keeping it in a proper state of repair is illegal. One of the few advantages of the product is that eventually it is able to upgrade itself, and can even be of some help around the house. This is offset by its tendency to behave unpredictably – not always because it crashes, though it often does that too. And however infuriating it can be, smashing a computer monitor out of frustration is not illegal even if it means one has to go to the doctor and/or replace the monitor – smashing the product is far more costly, in every way.

  • Ike Okadigwe

    No punches pulled article…

  • James
  • Christina

    Come on – if the fetus is clearly missing its head, or brain, or heart, and has zero chance of surviving, forcing the mother to carry it to term is just cruel.

  • Dorota

    well, most of times doctors suspect disabilities v. early but the truth is, every living organism is different and at some stage the parts can still develop and the woman may bare a healthy child without disabilities. Remember that aborting a child is a murder, and it is better for human conciousness to carry the child, gave it a birth and then even if it survives 5 days or 2 months or a year and then dies – have a funeral. Because the psyche of such a woman is then still healthy, if a woman aborts her own child it has severe implications on her mind and she always then questions if really the child would be born with one hand etc. My auntie was told being over 40 that there is a high risk and from the pics it seems her child will have a down syndrome but she did not abort it and had a perfectly healthy child. Accept the will of God and deal with it, after all you are a woman and have to carry your own child, if it dies, it dies and you have a peace of concious that you fulfilled your duty as a woman, if it survives and gives you happiness than you have accomplished your trial and the God will reward you. Don’t kill your own child that you carry under your heart, who listens to your heart, you will never live in peace. What people should be talking more about is the implications that abortion have on women who committed it, their marriage (if a man convinced woman to do it), on survivors of abortion etc. it is not “only” the God’s Law but also it is written deeply in a human conciousness, murder is a murder, for mother to kill her own baby is the worse murder possible to happen. Besides doctors make errors, and they swore to protect the human lives so it is against their profession to proceed and adv about abortion. Human live is priceless because human being of a dual nature – body and soul, the souls will survive the body and live eternally… 

  • David G Young

    Do you have a source to back up your insinuation that a doctor will ‘recommend’ (as opposed to ‘present as an available option’) abortion in the cases you list in the article?