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UK woman with Down syndrome calls current abortion law “downright discrimination”

Heidi Crowter
Photo: Heidi Crowter/PA Media

A woman with Down syndrome is challenging legislation which allows abortions up to birth for babies with the condition.

Heidi Crowter, 26, from Coventry, UK, calls the law “downright discrimination.”

Maire Lea-Wilson, 33, an accountant and mother of two from west London, whose son Aidan has Down’s syndrome, has also joined the suit, hoping to remove “a specific instance of inequality of the law.”

Heidi Crowter
Photo: Heidi Crowter/PA Media

In England, Wales and Scotland, there is a 24-week time limit to have an abortion.

But terminations can be allowed up until birth if there is “a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped,” which includes Down syndrome.

At a two-day High Court hearing, lawyers representing Crowter and Lea-Wilson will argue that the law as unlawfully discriminatory.

The pair, supported by the disability advocacy group Don’t Screen Us Out, are expected to protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London ahead of the first day.

In a statement, Crowter said, “The law says that babies shouldn’t be aborted up to birth, but if a baby is found to have Down’s syndrome it can be aborted up until birth.

“People like me are considered to be ‘seriously handicapped’, but I think using that phrase for a clause in abortion law is so out of date.

“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, but the Government hasn’t changed the law.

“I hope we win. People shouldn’t be treated differently because of their disabilities, it’s downright discrimination.”

Lea-Wilson said, “My motivation for taking this joint legal action with Heidi has always been simple: as a mother, I will do all that I can to ensure the fair and equitable treatment of my son, Aidan.

“This case is not about the rights or wrongs of abortion.

“It has always been about removing a specific instance of inequality of the law, whereby for a child without a disability the legal limit for abortion is 24 weeks, but you can have an abortion right up to full term with a child that does have a disability.

“We proclaim that we live in a society which values those with disabilities, that everyone deserves a fair and equal chance at life, regardless of their ability status.

“This law undermines that narrative. Does it really have a place in 2021?”

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