A woman with Down’s syndrome has said she will take her case to the Court of Appeal, after the High Court rejected her legal challenge to 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 – argued that the UK’s abortion law is discriminatory. The High Court rejected the case, saying it was a matter for Parliament.
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.
Speaking after the ruling, Crowter said she was “really upset not to win but the fight is not over”.
the fight is not over
She added: “The judges might not think it discriminates against me, the government might not think it discriminates against me but I am telling you that I do feel discriminated against.”
The 26-year-old argued that those with Down’s syndrome “face discrimination every day in schools, in the work place and in society. And now thanks to this verdict the judges have upheld discrimination in the womb too”.
‘Sons not equal’
Lea-Wilson said: “I am a mother, and I love and value my two boys equally. Today’s High Court judgement effectively says that my two sons are not viewed as equals in the eyes of the law”.
She added that she was “incredibly sad and disappointed that the court has chosen not to recognise the value and worth of people with Down’s syndrome, like my son Aidan”.
Paul Conrathe, the lawyer representing the women, said: “This is a disappointing judgment that is out of step with modern attitudes to disability.”
He added: “By allowing babies with Down’s Syndrome to be aborted up to birth, unlike neurotypical babies, the law sends a powerful message that the lives of people with Down’s Syndrome are of lesser value”.
Last year, figures from the Department of Health and Social Care showed a 5.6 per cent increase in babies aborted with Down’s syndrome from the previous year, with abortions for the condition rising from 656 in 2019, to 693 in 2020.
Speaking outside the Court, Crowter said she took encouragement from the evangelical William Wilberforce’s campaign to end slavery, as he “didn’t give up” despite various setbacks.
She later wrote: “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 to birth, because it is #DownrightDiscrimination”.
I want to succeed in changing the law to stop babies like me being aborted to birth, because it is #DownrightDiscrimination Thank you to my amazing friend Paul Conrathe and his team for their work on this case. Thank you to my mum and James. The Down syndrome community and …..
— Heidi Crowter-Living the dream (@HeidiCrowter95) September 23, 2021