UN Disabilty Committee Findings
Parents welcome UN Disability Committee rejection of abortion and 'incompatible with life' label
26 October 2017
The support group Every Life Counts has warmly welcomed the submission of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which says that allowing abortion on disability grounds violates the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Tracy Harkin of Every Life Counts said that parents were very pleased that the UN Committee had also rejected the 'incompatible with life' label which she said was used to dehumanise and discriminate against babies with a severe disability.
"We went to the UN in Geneva in 2015 and we asked that this label be recognised as a form of discrimination which was undermining the humanity of our babies and misleading parents, so we are especially delighted that the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has rejected the 'incompatible with life' label," she said.
In their response to draft General Comment No36 of the Human Rights Committee (attached) the UN Disability Rights body wrote specifically that "Laws which explicitly allow for abortion on grounds of impairment violate the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Art,. 4,5,8)."
The move by the CRPD comes as part of the comment process on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This process aims to make clear what is meant in the convention.
"By citing the already existing and widely ratified Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities the CRPD makes a powerful case that abortion on disability grounds are a grave breach of human rights," Ms Harkin said.
Ireland has not yet ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and despite lobbying by disability care and advocacy groups. Politicians have pointed to limited Dáil time as an excuse.
She added that the Committee had explicitly rejected abortion on disability grounds and that they had requested that the line "rape or incest or when the fetus suffers from fatal abnormalities" be removed from the draft General Comment.
"The CRPD also pointed out that "often it cannot be said if an impairment is fatal" on the grounds that "experience shows that assessments on impairment conditions are often false". They added that, even if the diagnosis of a life-limiting condition is correct, the label "perpetuates notions of stereotyping disability as incompatible with a good life".
In 2015, Every Life Counts, told a conference of medical experts and policymakers at the UN that it was time to call an end to the discrimination caused by the 'incompatible with life' label attached to unborn children diagnosed with a severe disability.
At the conference the Geneva Declaration on Perinatal Care was formally launched. It states that: 'As medical practitioners and researchers, we declare that the term "incompatible with life" is not a medical diagnosis and should not be used when describing unborn children who may have a life-limiting condition'. The Declaration also calls for better perinatal care for families in this situation.
She said it was heartening to see a UN Committee upholding human rights and bringing clarity to the issue. She warned that the UN Human Rights Committee had previously supported abortion on disability grounds, and said that disability rights advocates must be listened to, and the human rights of people with a disability upheld.
She also said that Every Life Counts wanted to acknowledge the important support given by Mattie McGrath TD who had the foresight and compassion to support the initiative from the outset, and who had submitted a Private Members Bill to the Dáil on the issue. "He gave great support to families of children with disabilities and we thank him for his compassion and insight," said Ms Coonan.
- Note: Submissions on the draft General Comment including that of the CRPD can be found here: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CCPR/Pages/GC36-Article6Righttolife.aspx
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