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Abortion and Disability – What Does The Law Say?

Abortion
11 July 2022
Heidi

Heidi Crowter is a disability rights campaigner and she’s challenging the current abortion law. On Wednesday 13 July, Heidi and her legal team will put their arguments forward against the existing law.

What’s she campaigning for?

Heidi is campaigning to end the discrimination in the current abortion law. It’s important to stress she’s not campaigning against abortion full stop. No – she’s focused on a particular part of the 1967 Abortion Act.

Under the current law, abortions can take place up to 24 weeks in most circumstances. However, if there’s a ‘substantial risk’ of the child being ‘severe handicapped’ then an abortion can take place up to birth. This has been interpreted by doctors to include conditions like club foot or cleft lip. And it has included Down syndrome as well. In fact, Down syndrome is the single largest justification for ‘late term abortions’ under the Abortion Act.

Heidi wants to see this part of the 1967 Abortion Act ruled unlawful. Her legal team have argued it interferes with the right to respect for private life in article 8(1) of the European convention on human rights (ECHR), including the decision to become or not become a parent and ‘rights to dignity autonomy and personal development of all three claimants”.

What’s she appealing?

Last year, Heidi’s case was heard by the High Court in England. It ruled that the current abortion law is not discriminatory.

In response, Heidi and her legal team asked for permission to appeal which was granted in March this year.

What happens if the appeal is successful?

If Heidi is successful and wins her appeal, it could mean the earlier High Court ruling is struck down. If this happens, the Secretary of State for Health will have to come to Parliament and change the existing law to stop abortions happening after 24 weeks.

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