A lady with Down syndrome has lost her appeal against a statute that permits abortion of a Down syndrome-affected fetus up until birth.
Heidi Crowter, a 27-year-old from Coventry, expressed her anger at the judges’ assertion that her sentiments were unimportant.
The Court of Appeal’s judges determined that the Abortion Act did not affect the rights of the living impaired.
The case, according to abortion provider BPAS, “was a full-frontal attack on pregnant women’s rights.”
Abortion is only permitted after 24 weeks of pregnancy in England, Wales, and Scotland unless “there is a strong chance that the child would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be gravely handicapped”—this includes Down’s syndrome.
The rules, according to Ms. Crowter, who has the disorder, are unfair to those who have Down’s syndrome. In July 2021, she filed a lawsuit against the government in the High Court with Maire Lea-Wilson, 33, of west London, whose son Aidan has Down syndrome, claiming that the law “doesn’t respect my life.”
Ms. Crowter stated that she and her team intend to “keep battling” and “fight there” in the Supreme Court.
The court acknowledges that many people with Down syndrome and other disabilities will be upset and offended by the fact that a diagnosis of serious disability during pregnancy is treated by the law as a justification for termination, and that they may view it as implying that their own lives are of less value. This is stated in a summary of the decision by Lord Justice Underhill, Lady Justice Thirlwall, and Lord Justice Peter Jackson.
The judges stated, “However, it holds that a notion that is what the legislation suggests is not by itself adequate to give rise to an interference with article 8 rights (to private and family life, which are guaranteed in the European Convention on Human Rights).”
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, or BPAS, which offers abortion care services, was founded by Clare Murphy and said it backed the court’s decision.
There is no conflict between a culture that supports the rights of persons with disabilities and one that gives women the freedom to make difficult choices in tragic circumstances, she insisted.
“This case could have had broad repercussions if it had been successful. The claimants have argued in court that fetuses should have human rights; however, this issue has never been resolved by the law and would be contrary to decades of UK legal precedent.”
The case, according to Ms. Murphy, “attacks pregnant women’s rights to make their own decisions throughout childbirth as well as to access to abortion.”
Ms. Crowter told family members “we lost” when speaking to them outside the Court of Appeal while clearly distraught.
She told reporters that she “felt like sobbing” and that she felt “not as valuable” as a person without Down’s syndrome.
With support from her mother Liz and Down’s syndrome-affected husband James, Ms. Crowter declared: “I will keep fighting since we have already informed and altered people’s perceptions of the legislation.”
Added her: “We were not even permitted to attend school due of our extra chromosome when the law was passed in 1967. Therefore, I believe it is time for the judges to adapt to the circumstances and actually meet with individuals who have Down syndrome.”
Crowdfunding helped Ms. Crowter and her group raise approximately £148,000 for their legal expenses.
The decision, according to attorney Paul Conrath, was “disappointing and confusing,” and the Court had “further undermined a fragile voice for equal worth,” he claimed.
According to the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities’ abortion data for England and Wales in 2021, 3,370 abortions (1.6% of all abortions) were carried out on “ground E,” which Ms. Crowter’s team contends is discriminatory.
In the 2021 abortion statistics, Down’s syndrome is “mentioned by medical condition” 859 times, 24 of which occur at or after 24 weeks. The advocacy group Doesn’t Screen Us Out asserts that the actual numbers are probably substantially higher.
Abortion is a topic on which the government has taken “a neutral approach,” according to a representative for the Department of Health and Social Care.
The decision about the conditions in which abortions should be performed is made by Parliament, with members having the freedom to vote in accordance with their moral, ethical, or religious convictions.