Woman with Down syndrome loses legal challenge over abortion law

Woman with Down syndrome loses legal challenge over abortion law

Heidi Crowter (middle) with Mayor Lea-Wilson (right) speaking to the media outside the High Court in London where they lost a High Court challenge against the government over legislation that allows abortion babies with the disease until birth.  Picture date: Thursday September 23, 2021. PA Photo.  See AP story COURTS DownsSyndrome.  Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA WirePicture date: Thursday September 23, 2021. PA Photo.

Heidi Crowter (middle) with Mayor Lea-Wilson (right) speaking to the media outside the High Court (Picture: PA)

A woman with Down syndrome has lost a Court of Appeal challenge over legislation allowing babies with Down syndrome to be aborted until birth.

Heidi Crowter, 27, from Coventry, has taken legal action against the Department of Health and Social Care in hopes of removing a section of the abortion law which she considers an ‘example of inequality”.

Judges ruled last September that the legislation was not illegal and aimed to strike a balance between the rights of the unborn child and those of women.

The case was reviewed by the Court of Appeal at a hearing in July.

In England, Wales and Scotland, there is a 24-week waiting period for an abortion.

But the law authorizes terminations of pregnancy until birth if there is “a substantial risk that at birth the child will suffer from physical or mental abnormalities such as to be seriously handicapped”, which includes the syndrome of Down.

Jason Coppell KC, representing Ms Crowter and Mayor Lea-Wilson, the mother of Aidan, a young boy with Down syndrome, told the court in July: ‘Its effect is to stereotype life as a disabled or severely disabled as not worth living and certainly as worth less than living as an able-bodied person, which has an impact on the feelings of self-esteem and self-confidence of people with disabilities, such as Ms Crowter .

He said the language used in the law is “outdated” and seen by some as offensive and unacceptable.

But, in a ruling on Friday, three senior judges rejected the appeal.

Heidi Crowter is comforted by her mother Liz outside the High Court in London where she lost a High Court challenge against the government over legislation which allows babies with the disease to be aborted until birth.  Picture date: Thursday September 23, 2021. PA Photo.  See AP story COURTS DownsSyndrome.  Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA WirePicture date: Thursday September 23, 2021. PA Photo.

Heidi Crowter is comforted by her mother Liz outside the High Court in London (Picture: PA)

Supporters of Heidi Crowter and Mayor Lea-Wilson outside the Royal Courts of Justice in central London as the Court of Appeal delivers its judgment on legislation which allows the abortion of babies with Down syndrome until the birth.  Picture date: Friday November 25, 2022. PA Photo.  Ms Crowter and Ms Lea-Wilson lost a High Court challenge against the government last September over legislation allowing babies with the disease to be aborted until birth.  PA History COURTS Downs Syndrome.  Photo credit should read: James Manning/PA Wire

Supporters outside the Royal Courts of Justice (Picture: PA)

Beth Costerton, 8, with her mother Sarah hold a sign among supporters of Heidi Crowter outside the High Court in London where she lost a High Court challenge against the government over legislation which allows abortion of children babies with the condition until birth.  Picture date: Thursday September 23, 2021. PA Photo.  See AP story COURTS DownsSyndrome.  Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA WirePicture date: Thursday September 23, 2021. PA Photo.

Eight-year-old Beth Costerton with her mother Sarah hold a sign among supporters (Picture: PA)

In a summary of the decision, by Lord Justice Underhill, Lady Justice Thirlwall and Lord Justice Peter Jackson, the judges said the law does not interfere with the rights of ‘living disabled people’.

They said: “The court recognizes that many people with Down syndrome and other disabilities will be upset and offended that a diagnosis of severe disability during pregnancy is treated by law as justification for the termination of pregnancy, and that they may see it as implying that their own life has less value.

“But he considers that the perception that this is what the law implies is not in itself sufficient to give rise to an interference with the rights of Article 8 (to private and family life, enshrined in the European Convention human rights).”

Down syndrome, resulting from an accidental birth with an extra chromosome, causes some degree of disability – with some people able to be independent and able to hold a job, while others will need more regular care .

In their ruling last year, Lord Justice Singh and Ms Justice Lieven concluded that the legislation was a matter for Parliament, which can consider a range of views, rather than the courts.

Speaking at the Royal Courts of Justice in London after the decision, Ms Crowter said she could now take her case to the Supreme Court.

Cristina Bowman with her son Max, 4, among Heidi Crowter supporters outside the High Court in London, where she lost a High Court challenge against the government over legislation which allows the abortion of babies with the condition until birth.  Picture date: Thursday September 23, 2021. PA Photo.  See AP story COURTS DownsSyndrome.  Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA WirePicture date: Thursday September 23, 2021. PA Photo.

Cristina Bowman with her four-year-old son Max (Picture: PA)

Heidi Crowter speaking to the media at the High Court in London where she lost a High Court challenge against the government over legislation which allows babies with the disease to be aborted until birth.  Picture date: Thursday September 23, 2021. PA Photo.  See AP story COURTS DownsSyndrome.  Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Heidi Crowter speaking to the media at the High Court (Picture: PA)

She told reporters: ‘I am very upset not to win again, but I will keep fighting because we have already informed and changed hearts and minds and changed people’s minds about the law.’

“I am very upset that babies with Down syndrome can be aborted until birth.

“It tells me that I am not valued and that I have much less value than someone without Down’s syndrome.

“I’m angry that the judges are saying my feelings don’t matter. It makes me feel like I’m not as valuable as someone without Down syndrome.

“When we started this court case, few people knew the law, but now many, many people know the law thanks to us and your amazing support.

“We want to thank everyone who donated their time and money to our legal case.”

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