A woman with Down syndrome lost a court challenge against the UK government last week contesting the legality of abortion up until birth of a foetus with her condition.
Heidi Crowter, 26, and two others sued the Department of Health and Social, arguing that part of the Abortion Act is discriminatory and violates the European Convention on Human Rights.
Abortions in England, Wales and Scotland are permitted up till 24 weeks of pregnancy. But if 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”, abortions can be performed until birth.
Crowter lives independently and was recently married. She described the law as “offensive” and disrespectful.
Judges Rajinder Singh and Nathalie Lieven said that the case raised emotional issues but declared that it did not violate international human rights law.
“The fundamental difficulty … is that the European Court has never decided that a foetus, even one post-viability, is the bearer of Convention rights,” concluded the High Court. “The fact that both domestic legislation and courts, and the European Court itself, have recognised that there may be circumstances in which the foetus has interests which the State is entitled to protect does not lead to the proposition that it enjoys rights under Article 2.”
“The evidence is also clear that, although scientific developments have improved and earlier identification may be feasible, there are still conditions which will only be identified late in a pregnancy, after 24 weeks,” the judges added.
In an article in the London tabloid Metro, Heidi Crowther wrote:
I don’t see why some people think there’s anything wrong with having an extra chromosome! I went to mainstream schools, got some qualifications and then went on to a hairdressing college where I gained an NVQ. I worked part time in a hairdressers which I loved, until Covid-19 came along and the salon had to shut.
When mum told me about the discrimination against babies like me in the womb, I felt like a knife had been put into my heart. It made me feel less valued than other people.
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