The political debate on bioethical issues in Austria is currently spinning into rather diverse directions. On the one hand, the country’s National Assembly has adopted a shameful law that removes nearly all previously existing barriers for medically assisted procreation, thus de facto turning a commodity that is available for all who are willing to pay for them (notably, lesbian couples). That same new law also provides for pre-natal diagnostic procedures to be used on embryos created in vitro, allowing the selection and destruction of embryos that are believed to suffer from genetic impairments. The message is clear: children with handicaps are not welcome. The diagnostic methods are not used to help the children concerned but to select them.
This sad development has, however, also raised new awareness that the existing law on abortion, allowing the abortion of children diagnosed with a handicap or genetic illness up until a very late stadium of the pregnancy, is in fact a systematic and brutal discrimination of (allegedly?) disabled persons: healthy children enjoy the full protection of the law as from the third month of the pregnancy, while children with disabilities don’t. In a society that pretends to be concerned about the rights of persons with disabilities, this situation is absurd.
An absolute novelty is that even the leader of the (otherwise radically pro-abortion) Green Party, Mrs. Eva Glawitschnig, has spoken up in favour of shortening the period during which the law allows late-term abortions of children diagnosed with a disability. The newly-founded liberal party “NEOS” and the (formerly) conservative People’s Party (Österreichische Volkspartei) support this proposal, while two other political parties, the right-wing “Freedomites” and “Team Stronach” (named after the Austro-Canadian billionaire who finances them) would even go one step further and completely abolish the provision that provides for “eugenic” abortions.
Only the Social Democrats remain staunchly anti-life and seem to have no problem with the discrimination of genetically handicapped persons. Sabine Oberhauser, Federal Minister for Health (image), let the astonished public know that “no deadline could be long enough” to get rid of children who are diagnosed with a handicap.
For a political movement that once claimed to defend the rights of the weak and defenceless, this is pretty heavy stuff.