A young woman who has Down’s syndrome will have her landmark case heard by the High Court as she challenges what she calls the ‘discrimination’ in the current abortion law, which allows a foetus to be aborted up to birth if it has Down’s syndrome.
Heidi Crowter, 24, has called for a judicial review to change the current law which allows parents to terminate pregnancies up to full-term in certain circumstances. Heidi has joined forced with Máire Lea-Wilson, whose eleven-month-old son Aidan has Down’s syndrome. Together, they will challenge the UK Government on the grounds of ‘unfair treatment’ against disabled people.
On 18 October 2020 Heidi spoke to Sky News about her campaign.
In the UK, abortions are legal after the normal 24-week limit if Down’s syndrome is detected. Heidi Crowter says abortion laws that allow discrimination against foetuses with disabilities must be changed.
— SkyNews (@SkyNews) October 18, 2020
The current law
The Abortion Act 1967 (as amended by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990) states that an abortion after 24 weeks is legal if it is performed by a registered medical practitioner (a doctor), and that it is authorised by two doctors, acting in good faith, on one (or more) of the following grounds (with each needing to agree that at least one and the same ground is met):
- that the termination is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman; or
- that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated; or
- that 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.
The third ground means that if it is found that a foetus has Down’s syndrome, the pregnancy may be terminated after 24 weeks.
Heidi’s lawyer, Paul Conrathe said:
‘This is a hugely significant moment as the Court has recognised it is arguable that the State is acting unlawfully towards babies with Downs Syndrome by allowing them to be aborted up to birth.
The Government now has to prepare its detailed evidence opposing the case. We will have an opportunity to reply to that evidence. The case will then go to trial. It is expected that this will happen early next year.’
Where we stand
The Down’s Syndrome Association (DSA) believes that the 1967 Abortion Act (as amended by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990) needs to be properly reviewed in light of the advances in medical science and testing options now available. The DSA would like to see sufficient time given by Parliament for the consideration of all evidence relevant to this important debate.
At the DSA, we are aware that decisions about termination are made for different reasons and for a range of complex conditions. Only those involved are aware of the details of what will be an individual and highly personal decision, one which cannot be taken lightly. People must have the relevant information to enable them to make an informed choice and the law must reflect the medical science available.
Heidi and her legal team have set up a CrowdJustice crowdfunding page to help raise funds for the legal proceedings. Find out more here.
You can read more about Heidi’s campaign via her Facebook page Heidi Crowter – living the dream
Heidi has also launched an Easy Read guide to here legal case, which you can read or download here.
Heidi, Máire and others from the Down’s syndrome community have also made a film to raise awareness of the court case. Watch it below.