Open Letter to Jacinda Ardern re broken promises for Down syndrome

Saving Downs September 2019
Family First Comment: In 2017 Saving Down’s highlighted their concerns around Jacinda Ardern’s pledge to change abortion laws and that this would introduce abortion through to birth for babies with disabilities. In response Jacinda Ardern made a commitment to not increase the time limit for disability-selective abortion. In response to the concerns raised by Saving Downs, Jacinda Ardern said:
“They have said till 40 weeks, which is wrong, which is wrong. We have time periods already set out in law, I’m not proposing changes to that. I’m proposing it comes out of the Crimes Act.”
Sadly it appears that Jacinda has broken her promise to the Down’s syndrome community and her Government have brought forward a bill which, if it becomes law,
 will introduce disability-selective abortion through to birth.

Open letter

Dear Prime Minister,
We are writing to you as members of the Down syndrome community regarding a promise you made to our community before the election in 2017.

You made a promise to our community that you would not increase the time limit for abortion for babies with disabilities from 20-weeks.

It appears you have have broken that promise, not only lifting the time limit for disability abortions, but bringing forward legislation that will increase the time limit for disability-selective abortions right through to birth.

Under section 187A of the Crimes Act there is currently a gestational time limit of 20-weeks for abortion for disability, providing two doctors sign off on the abortion.

Your Government’s new abortion bill, if it becomes law, will remove the current 20-week gestational time limit for disability. Instead abortion will be available for disabilities including Down syndrome right through to birth, providing one registered health practitioner signs off on the abortion under the new well-being grounds outlined in part one, clause seven of the Bill, that will allow for abortion up to birth. In the handful of jurisdictions that have a similar clause allowing for abortion up to birth, this has, in practice, allowed for abortion for disabilities including Down syndrome right through to birth.

This change in legislation, if it becomes law will send a strong discriminatory message to our community. Already the majority of babies in New Zealand diagnosed with Down syndrome are screened out by termination and if this proposed policy became law it could put us on the path towards the situation in Iceland where close to 100% of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted.

The Down syndrome community is proud that New Zealand celebrates a range of cultures, ethnicities and abilities and believes that there should never be a judgment made about genetic difference. We are, therefore, asking that you follow through on your promise to our community and either withdraw the Government’s bill or urgently introduce a specific provision to the Bill that will ensure that abortion for disabilities will not be allowed from 20-weeks through to birth.

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