Human Rights

UK mother sues government over discriminatory law allowing abortion for Down syndrome

Down syndrome, organ transplants

The mother of a young boy with Down syndrome in the United Kingdom is suing the government to end a law that classifies Down syndrome as a “severe fetal abnormality,” and also allows mothers to abort after 24 weeks of gestation if there is a presumed presence of the condition.

Maire Lea-Wilson told Sky News that she was encouraged to abort her son in the third trimester when doctors told her he likely had Down syndrome. “The first thing that they wanted to talk about (in hospital) was whether we wanted to terminate the pregnancy, and I was 34 weeks pregnant at the time, so it was quite a difficult question to get asked,” she said. She told the news outlet that she felt it was assumed “that you would want to abort a child with Down’s syndrome.”

READ: Young woman with Down syndrome: UK discriminates against babies like me by aborting up to birth

Abortion is currently allowed in England, Scotland, and Wales up to 24 weeks. After that time, it is legal if the mother’s life is in danger, there is a severe fetal abnormality, or the mother is at grave risk of physical or mental injury. Despite the fact that many people with Down syndrome lead full, active lives, an assumed presence of the condition means that a mother can abort her child up until birth. According to the group Love Both, 90 percent of preborn children diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted in Britain.

Wilson is joined in her lawsuit by Heidi Crowter, a woman who has Down syndrome. In speaking of the current law, Crowter told Sky News, “We are all equally valued and I am someone who has Down’s syndrome and it makes me feel upset, rejected by society and looked down on. It makes me feel like I shouldn’t exist in this world.”

Wilson’s concern for her son, who is now 11 months old, spurred her attempts at changing the current law. “It is really tough to think back on that. I find it really difficult to think that Aidan’s life isn’t seen as valuable as his older brother’s. It makes me worry as to whether he’ll be seen the same or treated the same,” she said. “I also really worry that when he’s older if this law is still in place, how will that make him feel: that he’s not as valuable, that he doesn’t have equal worth?”

Sky News reports that the legal papers will be filed with the courts this week, and then a judge will decide if the case can proceed to trial.

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