Religion Clause: British Court Says Fetus Has No Rights Under European Convention On Human Rights

In The Queen (on the Application of Crowter) v. Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, (EWHC, Sept. 23, 2021), a 2-judge High Court panel in Britain rejected an attack on provisions in the Abortion Act 1967 that permit late-term abortions where “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….” This has been interpreted to include Down syndrome fetuses. The court rejected claims that this provision violates various provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. The court said in part:

the European Court has never decided that a foetus, even one post-viability, is the bearer of Convention rights…. To the contrary, it has been content to leave the controversial and difficult issue of when life begins to the margin of appreciation of Contracting States. The fact that both domestic legislation and courts, and the European Court itself, have recognised that there may be circumstances in which the foetus has interests which the State is entitled to protect does not lead to the proposition that it enjoys rights under Article 2.

The court also issued a press summary of the case. Law & Religion UK also reports on the decision.

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