Abortion and disability
people's attitudes to abortion for fetal abnormality: report
of the findings of a study looking at school and university
Summary of findings
- The vast majority of students believe that abortion should
be legal, and dislike the idea of the law dictating the course
of action for the pregnant woman.
- School students were often more extreme in their views than
university students, which can perhaps be attributed to their
lack of experience and knowledge.
- The terms "Pro-Choice" and "Pro-Life" do not imply a consistent
support for or opposition to abortion. A significant number
of 'pro-life' students support abortion in some cases, and
some 'pro-choice' students believe there should be some limits
placed on the right to choose.
- Where students think there should be a limit on the right
to choose, they suggest the need for more education, counselling
or a change in people's attitudes to bring this about, rather
than legal measures.
- Abortion for fetal abnormality was thought by most students
to be understandable in some cases, although most thought
it would be wrong to have an abortion purely because the child
- Many students believed that the decision to abort an abnormal
fetus should be based around the welfare of the child, and
the quality of life a child will have. Abortion where the
parents simply did not want a disabled child was often labelled
- Students often suggested that disability could have positive
as well as negative aspects and that people should value the
special talents and caring nature that disabled people, particularly
Down's syndrome children were thought to have.
- Students perceived disability to be an attribute or form
of identity, akin to gender or skin colour, rather than as
a disease or illness. Since the issue of disability was therefore
thought of as a rights rather than a health issue, concern
was expressed that abortion for abnormality could be, or at
least could encourage, discrimination against disabled people.
- There was a dislike expressed of 'consumerism' and 'too
much choice'. Some students thought that people can expect
to be able to have anything they want, including a 'perfect
child', which was seen as morally wrong.
- Students expressed fear about the so-called 'slippery slope'
where they thought abortion for abnormality could lead to
sex selection, or abortion on the grounds of hair and eye
- Students expressed fears about the consequences of genetic
manipulation on the grounds that it is 'against nature' and
may spin out of control.
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