A 24-year old woman with Down’s syndrome is preparing to take the UK Government to court over the current abortion laws, under which it is legal to abort up to birth in cases of serious disability.
Heidi Crowter has Down’s and is from Coventry. She has joined together with Cheryl Bilsborrow from Preston, who’s two-year old son Hector also has Down’s syndrome.
In England, Wales and Scotland, abortion is available if the baby has a disability, including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot.
If the baby does not have any of these conditions, the current law means there is a 24-week limit.
The UN’s Committee on the Rights of Person’s with Disabilities’ concluding remarks on the initial report of the UK said that the UK should change its abortion law on disability, so it no longer singles out babies with disabilities. But the Government has decided to ignore this recommendation.
In 2018, there were 3,269 disability-selective abortions and 618 of these were for Down’s syndrome. This is a 42% increase in abortion for Down’s in the last 10 years.
Heidi Crowter said:
“At the moment in the UK, babies can be aborted right up to birth if they are considered to be ‘seriously handicapped’. They include me in that definition of being seriously handicapped – just because I have an extra chromosome! Can you believe that?
“What it says to me is that my life just isn’t as valuable as others, and I don’t think that’s right. I think it’s downright discrimination!
“The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recently said that the United Kingdom should change its abortion law to make sure that people like me aren’t singled out because of our disabilities.
“Sadly, the Government decided to ignore their recommendations and didn’t change the law. So now, I am going to take the Government to court with other members of the Down’s syndrome community to make sure that people aren’t treated differently because of their disabilities.”
Paul Conrathe, the claimant’s solicitor from Sinclairslaw, said:
“This case addresses a matter that is fundamentally offensive and discriminatory- that unborn babies with a disability, and in this case Down’s syndrome, should be aborted up to birth. The current law reinforces negative stereotypes and attributes lesser value and dignity to people with disability.
“In bringing this landmark case the claimants seek judicial ruling that the Abortion Act 1967 impermissibly violates the dignity of people with disabilities.“
Help Heidi raise £20,000 for the legal challenge to the UK’s discriminatory abortion laws
There is a fundraising page for Heidi which can be accessed here.