A woman with Down’s syndrome is seeking to change the law that allows babies with the condition to be aborted up to birth.
Heidi Crowter and fellow campaigner Máire Lea-Wilson – whose son Aidan was also born with Down’s syndrome – have brought the case against Health Secretary Sajid Javid, claiming that the UK’s abortion law is discriminatory.
Under current legislation, abortion is permitted up to 24 weeks for most reasons but is available at full-term for children deemed to have a ‘severely life-limiting condition’ – including Down’s syndrome.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, Heidi described the existing law as intolerable, “downright discrimination” and “deeply offensive”.
Her mother Liz explained that she and her husband “struggled to accept” Heidi’s diagnosis at first. But now, she added, “we can’t imagine life without her.”
Máire was offered an abortion on multiple occasions after being told there was a “50:50 chance” that her baby had Down’s syndrome – the last being at 36 weeks, just before Aidan was born.
different is not ‘bad’
She described him as “my fabulous little boy” and said: “I want the world to see Aidan the way I see him: as this amazing, beautiful individual who is different — but different is not ‘bad’. Difference makes up the rich tapestry of human life.”
Paul Conrathe, the lawyer representing the women, said: “My clients are challenging abortion legislation which allows unborn babies with Down’s syndrome, who are both viable and sentient, to be aborted up to birth.”
He also said that it “undermines their human dignity” and “should have no place in a society that espouses the equal value of people with disabilities”.
According to Katrina Scior – professor of clinical psychology at University College London, who will be speaking in court as an expert witness – if babies “were aborted because the colour of their skin was deemed to mean their life was less valuable, there would be outrage in society”.
no place in a society that espouses the equal value of people with disabilities
According to figures from Public Health England, more than 85 per cent of babies with a Down’s syndrome diagnosis are aborted.
Last year, Department of Health and Social Care figures show a 5.6 per cent increase in babies aborted with Down’s syndrome, with abortions for the condition rising from 656 in 2019, to 693 in 2020.