It is important that we, in Britain, where abortion is available with relative ease, keep in mind how much women in Poland will feel this blow and how vociferously they are fighting back. They see the denial of abortion for foetal anomaly as yet another restriction on a woman’s right to make her own decision about her own body – and they are absolutely right.
In the UK, the argument that here too abortion should not be available on grounds of foetal anomaly, that is discriminatory and “eugenic” has become increasingly accepted – not just by those, like the members of the Polish government, who oppose women’s right to abortion in principle.
Here, the clause in the current law that allows a doctor to meet a woman’s abortion request when there is a risk of serious abnormality is sometimes opposed by people who insist they are otherwise “pro choice”. There are loud campaigns by disability rights activists to strike down what is known as Ground E (that there is a substantial risk that, if the child were born, it would suffer physical or mental abnormalities that would result in serious handicap) or to restrict the conditions that fall under it.
Periodically, members of both Houses of Commons raise concern about abortions for cleft palate or Down Syndrome. And individual doctors sometimes express unease about women who make what they worry are “discriminatory choices”.
So let’s keep it clear in our heads. When a woman chooses to end her own pregnancy where foetal abnormality is detected, it is absolutely not a discriminatory or eugenic decision.
She is making a choice, like almost every other woman who requests an abortion, that she cannot continue the pregnancy in these circumstances; that it would better if this “child” were not born. She may make the decision because she thinks it is the best thing for her, or for her family. But it is a decision that she, herself, makes considering all things about her own situation.