Ground breaking Down Syndrome Bill to become lawAbortion
Today the Down Syndrome Bill passed Third Reading in the House of Lords and is set to receive Royal Assent before the end of the current parliamentary session.
Campaigners have welcomed the passing of the legislation which will place a new duty on local authorities to ensure tailored support is available for those living with Down syndrome in their areas.
The Bill was introduced by Liam Fox MP and eventually it secured government backing which has ensured it received enough time in parliament to pass the various stages.
Similar to the Autism Act which passed in 2009, supporters of the new Bill hope it will improve outcomes across the UK for those with Down syndrome.
Among the prominent supporters of the Bill is disability rights campaigner Heidi Crowter and actor Tommy Jessop.
What will the Bill do?
Currently children with Down Syndrome are automatically sent to a special school and only one in four go to a mainstream school, due to lack of support.
The bill will rectify this by placing a requirement on every school to meet the needs of pupils with Down Syndrome, thus giving them a choice of which school to go to.
This would mean better training for teachers to understand the condition, including helping pupils with Down Syndrome with their speech and language—improving their life chances as a result.
The bill will also provide long term care for people with Down Syndrome whose parents have died, given that life expectancy for people with Down Syndrome has vastly improved and many are outliving their parents.
Furthermore, the bill will aim to improve employment rates for adults with Down Syndrome, which is currently as low as 6 per cent.
Ken Ross of the National Down Syndrome Policy Group, argues that these changes will benefit children with Down Syndrome, but will also raise public awareness and encourage greater acceptance of people with Down Syndrome in society.
Abortion for Down Syndrome
CARE continues to be deeply concerned that the majority of pre-born babies with Down syndrome are aborted.
Under current UK abortion laws, it's legal to terminate right up to birth in cases of 'serious disability'. This has been interpreted to include Down syndrome as well as entirely treatable conditions like club foot.
Heidi Crowter is currently challenging this aspect of abortion law through the court. You can find out more about her case on her crowdfunding page.