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Down's syndrome campaigner loses High Court Challenge against abortion law but will appeal

Abortion
23 September 2021
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Heidi Crowter, a 26-year old woman from Coventry who has Down's syndrome has lost her High Court legal challenge against current abortion laws.

Responding to the decision at the court today, CARE's James Mildred said it was a "heart-breaking outcome".

Heidi was challenging the part of the current abortion law that allows abortion to birth in cases of 'serious handicap'.

This has been interpreted to include Down's syndrome as well as treatable disabilities like Club Foot and Cleft Lip.

In a ruling on Thursday, the case was dismissed by two senior judges who concluded that the current law aims to strike a balance between the rights of babies and of women.

Heidi brought the case with Maire Lea-Wilson, 33, an accountant whose son Aidan has Down's syndrome and a child with Down's syndrome, identified as A.

In a series of tweets following the ruling, Heidi drew comparison with William Wilberforce's tenacity in pushing for slavery to be abolished, despite strong opposition.

She said:

I am really upset not to win, but the fight is not over! The judges might not think it [current abortion law] discriminates against me, the government might not think it discriminates against me, but I am telling you I feel discriminated against. The verdict doesn't change how I and thousands in the Down syndrome community feel.
Heidi Crowter

She went on to say that she'd keep fighting for a change in the law:

This is a very sad day, but I will keep fighting. When Wilberforce wanted to change the law on slavery, he didn't give up, even when events didn't always go his way. And when the going got tough, he kept going and I'm going to do the same because I want to succeed.
Heidi Crowter

Heidi to seek per­mis­sion to appeal the rul­ing at the Court of Appeal

Speaking at the High Court today, solicitor Paul Conrathe said:

“The judgment fails to recognise the damaging impact UK abortion legislation has upon the mental health and wellbeing of people with Down’s syndrome. 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.

“My clients will be seeking permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal.”
Paul Conrathe Sinclairslaw

Lynn Murray, spokesperson for campaign group Don’t Screen Us Out and mother of Rachel, who has Down’s syndrome, said:

“It’s inspiring to see that Heidi and Maire are now planning on taking this case to the Court of Appeal.

“By stating that disability is grounds for termination, Section 1(1)(d) of the Abortion Act promotes inequality and perpetuates negative stereotypes.

“The provision in the Abortion Act harks back to a time when we thought it was better for people with disabilities not to be part of our society.

“We’re a far more progressive society now, we realise that diversity is healthy, and all of our laws should reflect that.”
Lynn Murray Don't Screen Us Out

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