A British woman with Down syndrome is in court this week challenging a law that allows unborn babies with disabilities to be aborted up to birth.
The Epoch Times reports Heidi Crowter, 26, of Coventry, slammed the British abortion law as “downright discrimination” because it prohibits abortions after 24 weeks on healthy unborn babies but allows abortions up to birth on unborn babies with Down syndrome and other disabilities.
She and Maire Lea-Wilson, 33, of west London, whose son has Down syndrome, filed a lawsuit challenging the abortion exception as a violation of anti-discrimination law and human rights. They began arguing their case Tuesday before the High Court in London; the hearing is expected to continue through Wednesday.
“I hope we win,” Crowter said in a statement before the hearing. “People shouldn’t be treated differently because of their disabilities. It’s downright discrimination.”
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Lea-Wilson said she got involved in the case because of her son Aidan. She said doctors suggested an abortion multiple times after they discovered that Aidan had a “50-50 chance” of having Down syndrome, according to The Christian Institute. She said she was 36 weeks pregnant — nearly full term — the last time they suggested an abortion.
“I have two sons that I love and value equally, but the law does not value them equally. This is wrong and so we want to try and change that,” Lea-Wilson said. “My motivation for taking this joint legal action with Heidi has always been simple: As a mother, I will do all that I can to ensure the fair and equitable treatment of my son, Aidan.”
Parents frequently report feeling pressured to abort unborn babies with Down syndrome and other disabilities. One mom recently told the BBC that she was pressured to abort her unborn daughter 15 times, including right up to the moment of her baby’s birth.
Some parents give into the pressure. More than 85 percent of unborn babies who are diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted in England, according to statistics from Public Health England.
Studies suggest advances in prenatal testing are causing an increase in abortions on unborn babies with disabilities. The Telegraph reports a recent article in the European Journal of Human Genetics found that the number of babies with Down syndrome born in the United Kingdom dropped 54 percent since the non-invasive prenatal screening tests became available about a decade ago.
Crowter said discrimination against a child is just as wrong before birth as it is after.
“The law says that babies shouldn’t be aborted up to birth, but if a baby is found to have Down’s syndrome it can be aborted up until birth. … it’s not fair,” she said. “People like me are considered to be ‘seriously handicapped,’ but I think using that phrase for a clause in abortion law is so out of date.”
People with Down syndrome are leading longer, healthier lives thanks to modern medical advances and greater societal acceptance. Crowter is married and has a busy life as a disability rights advocate. Other people with Down syndrome have jobs, attend college, work as actors and models, start businesses and more.
“We proclaim that we live in a society which values those with disabilities, that everyone deserves a fair and equal chance at life, regardless of their ability status. This law undermines that narrative. Does it really have a place in 2021?” Lea-Wilson said.
The Don’t Screen Us Out campaign is supporting their case.
According to The Epoch Times, several Church of England bishops also voiced support for the effort this week.
“There is something profoundly disturbing in our current contradictory stance which says that people living with disability are valued, respected, and cherished, but that disability in and of itself represents a valid ground for abortion,” the bishops said in a statement.
In 2020, the high court in Poland struck down a similar exception in Polish law that allowed abortions on unborn babies with disabilities.