A woman with Down’s syndrome is to take her fight to halt abortions up to birth for babies with her genetic condition after the Court of Appeal rejected her case.Down’s woman vows to fight abortion law discrimination in Supreme Court – Catholic Herald
A woman with Down’s syndrome is to take her fight to halt abortions up to birth for babies with her genetic condition after the Court of Appeal rejected her case.
Heidi Crowter, 27, of Coventry will apply for permission for her case to be heard at the Supreme Court following her defeat in London.
She argued that a clause in the 1967 Abortion Act discriminates against Down’s syndrome children and babies with disabilities by allowing them to killed up to birth simply because they are different from other children.
Abortion for children without Down’s syndrome or other disabilities is forbidden after 24 weeks of gestation and Ms Crowter had asked for the law to apply to all unborn babies without discrimination.
Ms Crowter has claimed that the law as it is stigmatises people with Down’s syndrome and disabilities by sending out the message that their lives are less valuable than those of other people.
“I feel like crying,” said Ms Crowter outside of court.
“We face discrimination every day in schools, in the workplace and thanks to this verdict the judges have upheld discrimination in the womb to which is downright discrimination,” she told journalists.
“When Wilberforce wanted to abolish the slave trade he didn’t give up when things didn’t go his way.
“I won’t give up either because the law should be changed to get rid of a negative focus on Down’s syndrome – even the words used in it are offensive.”
She added: “This law was made in 1967 when we were not even allowed to go to school because of our extra chromosome, so I think it’s time that the judges move with the times and actually meet people with Down’s syndrome and see the people behind the chromosome.”
Paul Conrathe of Sinclairslaw, her solicitor said that the judgement was “disappointing and perplexing”.
He said: “Rather than affirming the equal value of those with disabilities, it further adds to the stigmatisation they suffer.
“This is for the simple reason that the court concluded that the perceptions of people with disabilities about a law which allows the ending of a life because of disability are irrelevant. “Yet the law protects the unborn without disabilities, leading to the understandable perception that disabled lives are of lesser value or no value at all.
“Despite this obvious discrimination the court concluded that other people – including people who are not disabled – had a different view of the implications of this legislation and the perceptions and feelings of the disabled could not be relied upon to establish an interference with their human rights.
“The conclusions of the Court are all the more surprising as Mencap, the leading UK disability charity, had informed the Court that UK abortion law conveyed ‘the powerful message that a life with a disability is a lesser life, even a life not worth living. It should have no place in a modern inclusive society that values all people’.
“Similarly, the UN Committee on the Rights of People with Disabilities recommended that the UK change its abortion law so that it does not stigmatise those with disabilities as having a life of lesser value.”
He continued: “By failing to give legal recognition to the suffering and stigmatisation that people with disabilities feel about a law which singles them out for termination in the womb the Court has further diminished a fragile voice for equal value.
“Yet again their perceptions are disregarded. My clients are resolute in their fight for the legal recognition of the equal value of people with disabilities and will appeal to the Supreme Court to see this anachronistic and outdated legislation changed.”
Heidi and her team have crowdfunded over £140,000 for the case.
Statistics show there were 3,370 disability-selective abortions in 2021, a nine per cent increase from 3,083 in 2020. The number of late-term abortions at 24 weeks gestation or over where the baby has a disability increased by 20 per cent from 229 to 274.
The statistics also revealed there were 859 abortions where a baby had Down’s syndrome in 2021, an increase of 24 per cent from 2020. There was a 71 per cetn increase in late-term abortions at 24 weeks gestation or over where the baby had Down’s syndrome, increasing from 14 in 2020 to 24 in 2021.
The actual figures may be much higher – a 2013 review showed 886 foetuses were aborted for Down’s syndrome in England and Wales in 2010 but only 482 were reported in Department of Health records. The underreporting was confirmed by a 2014 Department of Health review.
The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has consistently criticised countries that provide for abortion on the basis of disability.
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ concluding observations on the initial report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland made a key recommendation that the UK change its abortion law so that it does not single out babies with disabilities. The Government has decided to ignore this recommendation.
The Disability Rights Commission (now the Equality and Human Rights Commission) has said that this aspect of the Abortion Act “is offensive to many people; it reinforces negative stereotypes of disability…[and] is incompatible with valuing disability and non-disability equally”.
Polling has shown that the majority of people in England, Wales and Scotland feel that disability should not be a grounds for abortion at all, with only one in three people thinking it is acceptable to ban abortion for gender or race but allow it for disability.
(Photo by Simon Caldwell)