The Paralympic Games must change the way we think about abortion
"Finally, there are some famous words you can find stamped on the bottom of a product," said Lord Coe, in his speech at the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games. "Words, that when you read them, you know mean high quality, mean skill, mean creativity.
"We have stamped those words on the Olympic and Paralympic Games of London 2012.
"London 2012. Made in Britain."
These past weeks have been wonderful: a spirit of heroism has indeed inspired a generation, not least in shifting the perception of disabilty from one of insurmountable hurdles and endless inconvenience to rich possibility and the heights of achievement. The disabled have become the differently-abled: they can race in wheelchairs, run with no legs, swim with no arms, and play football with their ears. Closed minds have been opened; the impossible made possible; the inaccessible accessible.
All you need, as Roy Castle used to sing, is dedication.
And God-given talent, of course. For the reality is that these differently-abled athletes, with no eyes, no legs, dwarfism or multiple sclerosis, can still run faster, throw further, jump longer or swim faster than a good many 'able-bodied'.
And yet society deems it ethically permissible to abort them.
It is ironic that Parliament resists calls to legalise 'assisted suicide' on the grounds that those who are vulnerable through age or illness might be pressured into terminating their lives, while we send completely the opposite message to the disabled, whose lives may be freely and swiftly terminated in the womb.
In his speech, Lord Coe told us of a Games-Maker he met on the Underground a few weeks ago; a doctor who was on duty on that fateful day in London on 7th July 2005. "For me this is closure," he said. "I wasn't sure I should come or whether I could face it. I'm so glad I did. For I've seen the worst of mankind and now I've seen the best of mankind."
London has come a long way in seven years: this has been a summer like no other. But if 'the best of mankind' is to have any enduring legacy; if, as Lord Coe says, 'we will never think of disability the same way', surely we must lift 'the cloud of limitation' on the thousands of unborn babies in the womb, whom providence has seen fit to gift with one leg, no arms, no eyes, dwarfism or spina bifida. Who in God's name can justify snuffing out the giftedness and limitless potential of Ellie Simmonds:
Or the rest of our Paralympians?
As we watch these deeply impressive individuals parade in the Victory Celebration; as they receive in due course their knighthoods, damehoods and various appointments to the Order of the British Empire for services to sport, let us remember not only their spectacular personal achievements, but also the supreme pleasures they have given us all over these weeks and the immense contribution they make to society. And then ask why we are content to justify the routine abortion of the differently-abled.