Synod backs motion to affirm the human dignity of disabled children

07/07/2024

The General Synod has backed a motion to ensure parents and mothers have access to information on practical support available to them when informed they are carrying a child who will be disabled.
Pete Spiers standing at podium Sam Atkins / Church of England

Members of the Synod meeting in York voted in favour of plans to “strengthen the church’s witness to the human dignity of all God’s children”.

The motion calls upon churches and dioceses to consider the pastoral advice and support they might offer to the parents and families of those who had been advised during their pregnancy that their child would be born with a disability.

The Synod heard of the experience of Christine Keeley, from Wigan, who after realising the lack of advice and support for options other than termination created the ‘Magnificat Group’ with others who had experiences of disability and baby loss to provide this information.

The Ven Pete Spiers, from the Diocese of Liverpool, introducing the debate, said: “We want government and healthcare providers to ensure that parents of unborn children with a disability are given comprehensive and unbiased information and told what support is available to them.

“Our motion aims to strengthen the church’s witness to the human dignity of all God’s children and challenges us as a church to live out our belief.”

During an emotional debate members spoke of their personal experience of living with a disability or as parents of disabled children.

Speaking of his own experience as the parent of a disabled child the Archbishop of Canterbury welcomed the motion saying, “I hope this motion passes, not just because of [my daughter] Ellie, but because of our belief in human dignity.

“I hope this motion gets overwhelming support, not because I think the government will immediately do something because there isn’t a lot of money around.

“But the more the Church does the more we demonstrate to the world that we believe in the cross and the resurrection and the ascension and the ascending of the Holy Spirit.

“That we take scripture seriously and we believe in the God who moves in the world in which we live.”

Before General Synod voted a moment of silence was held.

Notes

The General Synod motion, as shown below, was carried with votes recorded as follows:

  • In favour: 312
  • Against: 0
  • Abstained: 0

That this Synod, reaffirming its belief that every person is unique and precious and made in the image of God, and endorsing section 6 of the Equality Act (2010):

  1. Challenges the common assumption that bringing a disabled child into the world is a tragedy to be avoided;
  2. Calls upon healthcare providers and other public authorities to improve the support they give to the parents and families of children born with disabilities;
  3. Calls upon Her Majesty’s Government and healthcare providers to ensure that mothers whose unborn child may be disabled in any way are given comprehensive and unbiased information about the condition and support available to them;
  4. Calls upon dioceses, parishes and chaplaincies to consider how they might better witness to the human dignity of disabled children, including the better pastoral advice and support they might offer to their parents and families.
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