UK Woman with Down syndrome loses appeal against discriminatory abortion law

Down syndrome

A woman with Down syndrome who has been campaigning to end the practice of discriminatory abortions in the United Kingdom has lost a court of appeal challenge against the eugenic law.

Heidi Crowter has been fighting the nation’s abortion law, which allows discriminatory abortions up to birth in cases of a prenatal diagnosis of any disability, including Down syndrome. Crowter has been joined in her efforts by Maire Lea-Wilson, the mother of a son who has Down syndrome. The pair brought legal action against the Department of Health and Social Care, with the aim of removing the section from the Abortion Act that allows discriminatory, eugenic abortions.

In September 2021, their campaign suffered a disappointing loss when two judges assigned to the case decided to uphold the law as it was written.

“The current law is unfair. It makes me feel like I shouldn’t exist, and that I’d be better off dead in the eyes of the law,” Crowter previously said.

Down syndrome

Heidi Crowter with her husband James Carter, outside the Royal Courts of Justice in central London, as the Court of Appeal releases its judgment relating to the legislation which allows the abortion of babies with Down’s Syndrome up until birth. Picture date: Friday November 25, 2022. (Photo by James Manning/PA Images via Getty Images)

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In July, Crowter filed an appeal against the initial decision, again hopeful that the judges would rule in her favor. “In 2022, we live in a society where disabled people are valued equally after birth but not in the womb,” she told SkyNews. “I hope that the judges will agree with me that this law is discrimination and needs to be changed.”

She suffered crushing defeat again, however, as the appeals judges decided that the current law should stand.

“The court recognises that many people with Down’s Syndrome and other disabilities will be upset and offended by the fact that a diagnosis of serious disability during pregnancy is treated by the law as a justification for termination, and that they may regard it as implying that their own lives are of lesser value,” the judges wrote in a summary. “But it holds that a perception that that is what the law implies is not by itself enough to give rise to an interference with article 8 rights (to private and family life, enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights).”

Crowter was upset with the ruling but has vowed to keep fighting. “It makes me feel that I shouldn’t be here. That I should be extinct. I know that’s not true, but that’s how it makes me feel,” she told SkyNews.

“I will keep on fighting because we have already informed and changed hearts and minds and changed people’s opinions about the law,” she said. “The law was made in 1967, when we were not even allowed to go to school because of our extra chromosome. So, I think it’s time that the judges move with the times and actually meet with people with Down’s syndrome.”

Crowter has indicated that she may take the case to the Supreme Court, saying, “I will not stop until I am seen as equal in society.”

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