Woman with Down’s Syndrome loses fight with UK high court over selective abortion laws

A woman with Down’s syndrome has lost her legal challenge against the government over a law that allows abortion up until birth for babies with the condition. Heidi Crowter, 26, from Coventry, had brought the case against the Department of Health and Social Care to the High Court, saying the law did not respect her life.

She was one of three claimants who brought the legal action, in the hope of removing a section of the Abortion Act. Maire Lea-Wilson, 33, an accountant and mother of two from west London, whose son Aidan has Down’s syndrome, is also part of the legal challenge, which she hopes will remove “a specific instance of inequality of the law.”

She said: “I have two sons that I love and value equally, but the law does not value them equally. This is wrong and so we want to try and change that. My motivation for taking this joint legal action with Heidi has always been simple: as a mother, I will do all that I can to ensure the fair and equitable treatment of my son, Aidan.”

In England, Wales and Scotland, abortions are allowed within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. But abortions are allowed up until birth if there is “a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped”, which includes Down’s syndrome.

Lawyers representing the Down’s syndrome campaigners argued the law is unlawfully discriminatory and incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. But in a ruling handed down on Thursday morning, Lord Justice Singh and Mrs Justice Lieven rejected the legal challenge. The senior judges concluded the legislation is not unlawful and aims to strike a balance between the rights of the unborn child and of women.

Lord Justice Singh and Mrs Justice Lieven said: “The evidence before the court powerfully shows that there will be some families who positively wish to have a child, even knowing that it will be born with severe disabilities. But the evidence is also clear that not every family will react in that way. As it was put on behalf of the defendant, the ability of families to provide a disabled child with a nurturing and supportive environment will vary significantly. The evidence is also clear that, although scientific developments have improved and earlier identification may be feasible, there are still conditions which will only be identified late in a pregnancy, after 24 weeks.”

Speaking outside court at the time of the hearing, Ms Crowter told the PA news agency: “I am someone who has Down’s syndrome and I find it extremely offensive that a law doesn’t respect my life, and I won’t stand for it. I want to change the law and I want to challenge people’s perception of Down’s syndrome. I want them to look at me and say ‘this is just a normal person’. That’s what this is about. It’s about telling people that we’re just humans with feelings.”

Ms Crowter, who was surrounded by dozens of supporters outside the court building in central London, added: “When Wilberforce wanted to change the law on slavery, he didn’t give up, even when events didn’t always go his way. And when the going got tough, he kept going, and I’m going to do the same, because I want to succeed in changing the law to stop babies like me… being aborted up to birth, because it’s downright discrimination.”




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Paul, 37, is from Scotland in the UK, but currently lives and works in Bangkok. Paul has worked in different industries such as telemarketing, retail, hospitality, farming, insurance, and teaching, where he works now. He teaches at an all-girls High School in Bangkok. “It’s a lot of work, but I love my job.” Paul has an active interest in politics. His reason for writing for FBA is to offer people the facts and allow them to make up their own minds. Whilst he believes opinion columns have their place, it is also important that people can have accurate news with no bias.

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