A young woman with Down syndrome has become a leader in the fight to end discriminatory abortions on people with disabilities in England.
Aleteia reports Heidi Crowter, 24, of Coventry, is challenging the British Abortion Act of 1967, which allows abortions up to birth for unborn babies with disabilities.
“At the moment in the UK, babies can be aborted right up to birth if they are considered to be ‘seriously handicapped,’” Crowter said. “They include me in that definition of being seriously handicapped — just because I have an extra chromosome.”
Crowter said the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recently recommended that the United Kingdom change its abortion laws to prevent discrimination.
“Sadly, the Government decided to ignore their recommendations and didn’t change the law,” she said. “So now, I am going to take the Government to court with other members of the Down syndrome community to make sure that people aren’t treated differently because of their disabilities.”
She and Cheryl Bilsborrow, whose 2-year-old son has Down syndrome, are leading the campaign to change the law. They are part of the Don’t Screen Us Out campaign, which has thousands of supporters.
Many believe discriminatory abortions have increased with advances in prenatal testing. New screening tests offered between 10 and 14 weeks of pregnancy can predict the chances of a baby having Down syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities.
Recent data shows the number of late-term abortions on unborn babies with Down syndrome has doubled in the past 10 years in England, the pro-life organization SPUC reported in February.
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Lynn Murray, a spokesperson for Don’t Screen Us Out, said it’s time to end this government-sanctioned inequality.
“We live in a society which proclaims that we want to empower those with disabilities, and that regardless of your background, you deserve a fair and equal chance at life. We believe that our laws must reflect this narrative,” Murray said.
The campaign also is urging medical reform to better educate and support families of children diagnosed with disabilities.
Right to Life UK reported more about the situation earlier this year:
Meanwhile, polling has shown that the majority of people in England, Wales and Scotland feel that disability should not be a grounds for abortion at all, with only one in three people thinking it is acceptable to ban abortion for gender or race but allow it for disability.
In 2018, there were 3,269 disability-selective abortions. 618 of those were for Down’s syndrome, representing a 42% increase in abortion for Down’s syndrome in the last ten years with figures rising from 436 in 2008.
Many women report feeling pressured to abort their unborn babies when these tests and other indicators suggest their unborn babies may have a disability. Bilsborrow, of Lancashire, is one of them.
She said she repeatedly was asked if she wanted an abortion, including when she was 38 weeks pregnant.
“Never!” she replied, but they kept asking.
Today, her son Hector is a happy, affectionate 2-year-old. His mother said he loves to sing, and he is beginning to talk.
“He’s got beautiful white hair and blue eyes, and he is always smiling and laughing, blowing kisses and coming for hugs,” Bilsborrow said. “But when I was pregnant I was made to feel like his life would have no value and that I should abort him. Why? Because he has Down’s Syndrome.”
Down syndrome discrimination is a problem across the world. Several years ago, a CBS News report shocked the nation with its exposure of the discriminatory trend. According to the report, nearly 100 percent of unborn babies who test positive for Down syndrome are aborted in Iceland. The rate in France was 77 percent in 2015, 90 percent in the UK and 67 percent in the United States.
A number of American states have passed laws to ban discrimination against unborn babies with Down syndrome and other disabilities, but many of the laws are blocked by legal challenges from the abortion industry.