The Abortion Act 1967 (as amended by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990) states that an abortion after 24 weeks is legal if it is performed by a registered medical practitioner (a doctor), and that it is authorised by two doctors, acting in good faith, on one (or more) of the following grounds (with each needing to agree that at least one and the same ground is met):
- that the termination is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman; or
- that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated; or
- that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.
The third ground means that if it is found that a foetus has Down’s syndrome, the pregnancy may be terminated after 24 weeks.
The Down’s Syndrome Association (DSA) believes that the 1967 Abortion Act (as amended by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990) needs to be properly reviewed in light of the advances in medical science and testing options now available. The DSA would like to see sufficient time given by Parliament for the consideration of all evidence relevant to this important debate.
At the DSA, we are aware that decisions about termination are made for different reasons and for a range of complex conditions. Only those involved are aware of the details of what will be an individual and highly personal decision, one which cannot be taken lightly. People must have the relevant information to enable them to make an informed choice and the law must reflect the medical science available.