Voice for Choice, the UK’s national coalition of pro-choice campaigning organisations – of which Humanists UK is a member – has lodged a formal complaint to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) over the conduct of its Commissioner, Lord Shinkwin, who was appointed by the Government Equalities Office earlier this year. The complaint focuses on two areas where Lord Shinkwin’s actions have contravened the EHRC’s codes of conduct and undermined its integrity. In the light of Voice for Choice’s complaint, Humanists UK believes that it is no longer appropriate for Lord Shinkwin to remain in his role as a Commissioner.
The first area of complaint is Lord Shinkwin’s introduction of the Abortion (Disability Equality) Bill in the House of Lords. If this bill becomes law, it would amend the 1967 Abortion Act to prevent women from accessing an abortion after 24 weeks when faced with a serious antenatal diagnosis. This would include cases where the pregnancy would result in a stillbirth or the baby would not survive long after birth. Women faced with this diagnosis would be forced to carry such a pregnancy to full term.
By denying women abortions in the case of fatal foetal abnormality, this bill would violate their human rights. The United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) has already established this precedent in two rulings on the denial of abortion on these grounds in the Republic of Ireland. The UNHRC found in both cases such a prohibition constitutes cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment. With this bill, Lord Shinkwin undermines the very rights that as a Commissioner he is entrusted to uphold.