UK Down Syndrome Advocates Head to Court of Appeal

UK Down Syndrome Advocates Head to Court of Appeal

Twenty-six-year-old Heidi Crowter has vowed to take her case to the United Kingdom’s Court of Appeal in a continuing effort to change the 1967 Abortion Act, which allows for abortion up to birth if prenatal testing shows the child is at risk of having “physical or mental abnormalities,” such as Down syndrome.

Crowter—who has Down syndrome herself, lives independently and recently married—says her legal challenge poses a simple question to the government: “Is my life any less valuable as someone who has one extra chromosome?”

Máire Lea-Wilson, 33, is a mother of a son with Down syndrome and one of two claimants who have joined Crowter’s case. She told BBC Radio last week that once doctors discovered her unborn child likely had Down syndrome, they repeatedly encouraged her to abort her son—even two days before giving birth.

“My son is not a defect or an abnormality. I do not cope with him. He is not a burden. He is a PERSON who deserves to be seen and treated equally. That is the point of the case,” Lea-Wilson tweeted, along with a photo of her 2-year-old son, Aidan.

On Sept. 17, two senior High Court judges ruled to dismiss the suit, admitting that the issues that gave rise to the case “generate strong feelings, on all sides of the debate, including sincere differences of view about ethical and religious matters,” but that the court “cannot enter into those controversies.”

The claimants’ lawyer, Paul Conrathe, a solicitor at Sinclairslaw, believes the ruling perpetuates discrimination against people living with Down syndrome.

“The judgment fails to recognize the damaging impact U.K. abortion legislation has upon the mental health and well-being of people with Down syndrome,” he said. “By allowing babies with Down syndrome to be aborted up to birth, unlike neurotypical babies, the law sends a powerful message that the lives of people with Down syndrome are of lesser value.”

While Crowter admitted that the High Court’s ruling was disappointing, she doesn’t plan to give up fighting. 

“When [William] Wilberforce wanted to change the law on slavery, he didn’t give up, even when events didn’t always go his way,” she said in a speech from the steps of the High Court on Sept. 17. “And when the going got tough, he kept going. And I’m going to do the same, because I want to see a change in the law to stop babies like me … from being aborted up to birth, because it’s downright discrimination.”

 
Above: Máire Lea-Wilson (left) and Heidi Crowter (right) outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, England, on July 6.

Photo: PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo

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