Woman with Down’s syndrome takes Sajid Javid to court over abortion law 4 months ago

Woman with Down’s syndrome takes Sajid Javid to court over abortion law

Heidi Crowter is continuing her fight over abortion laws regarding foetuses with Down's syndrome

Not long ago, we reported on Heidi Crowter and Máire Lea-Wilson's campaign against aborting foetuses with Down's syndrome, which they had managed to escalate all the way to high court.

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Two months later, the date has arrived and Crowter is now challenging the recently appointed Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, over the Abortion Act of 1967, reiterating that the legislation is discriminatory and points towards a key inequality in women's health.

At present, the law allows for foetuses that would be “seriously handicapped”, such as having Down's syndrome, or face other “substantial risks” to be aborted right up until the point of birth, whereas the standard rule is within 24-weeks of pregnancy. Crowter and Lea-Wilson argue the same rules should apply across the board.

Speaking before she entered the court, Crowter said, “I find it extremely offensive that a law doesn’t respect my life, and I won’t stand for it. I want to change the law and I want to challenge people’s perception of Down’s syndrome”, with Lea-Wilson adding, “I have two sons who I love and I value equally and I can’t understand why the law doesn’t".

She went on to say: “I want Aidan [her son] to grow up knowing he’s not someone people have to cope with, he’s not a burden to society, he is a wonderful human being in his own right. And so I want the law to change so that the rules for a typical baby apply for those with Down’s syndrome.” Aidan is also listed as a claimant in this case.

The pair are being represented by Jason Coppel QC, who told the High Court in London on Tuesday that Crowter - who has her own flat, recently got married and has pursued studies up to NVQ level - “has been the subject of abuse because of her disability and believes that the existence of a law allowing abortion up to birth for babies with DS [Down’s syndrome] is a contributory cultural cause of this type of abuse”.

Coppel also went on to say of Lea-Wilson, who was continually offered abortion after diagnosis at 35 weeks:

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“The pressure she was put under, the lack of support offered to her, the guilt she was made to feel for not having undergone screening, the impression conveyed that by going ahead with the pregnancy she would be going against medical advice, the negativity about DS and the fear engendered about having a child with DS all conveyed the message to her that a life with DS was of no value.”

The case will be heard throughout the next couple of days, with judgement set to be reserved, meaning a decision on any changes in the legislation won't come until some time after the hearing has ended.

Aside from the obvious humanity of this campaign - wanting to prove that people with Down's syndrome can go on to lead happy, healthy lives, the three claimants argument looks solid.

They argue the law interferes with the right to respect for private life in article 8(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), specifically: the decision to become or not to become a parent and “rights to dignity, autonomy and personal development of all three claimants”.

We wish them all the best of luck in their case.

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