The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has released its concluding observations on the initial report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. They are harshly critical of the UK’s policy towards people with disabilities. The Guardian summarises its findings as follows:
“The UK government is failing to uphold disabled people’s rights across a range of areas from education, work and housing to health, transport and social security, a UN inquiry has found …
Its report concludes that the UK has not done enough to ensure the convention – which enshrines the rights of disabled people to live independently, to work and to enjoy social protection without discrimination – is reflected in UK law and policy.”
What the article fails to mention, however, is Section IIIB(12) and (13) of the Committee’s observations, which pro-lifers and disability rights activists will find interesting:
“The Committee is concerned about perceptions in society stigmatizing persons with disabilities as living a life of less value and the termination of pregnancy at any stage on the basis of foetal impairment.
The Committee recommends that the State party changes abortion law accordingly. Women’s rights to reproductive and sexual autonomy should be respected without legalizing selective abortions on ground of foetus deficiency.”
Which is what we’ve been saying all along, except without using the frankly horrible term ‘foetus deficiency’ (since when are people with disabilities in any way ‘deficient’?). Obviously, we’ve devoted a significant amount of effort to explaining why we shouldn’t take the views of the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) on abortion as binding and sensible legal precedent, so you could be forgiven for asking why we should suddenly start celebrating a UN opinion. It’s true, UN decisions aren’t binding on us as a state. That’s not why we should pay attention to the decision of the CRPD. We should pay attention to them because, in this, they’re correct. It’s heartening to see that they are getting something right! The Citizens’ Assembly might also wish they’d considered this angle before they voted in favour of allowing abortion on the grounds of disability up to a higher term limit than people without disabilities, or, as they euphemistically called it, ‘a significant foetal abnormality that is not likely to result in death before or shortly after birth’.
The Statistics Fairy