Woman with Down’s syndrome loses UK abortion law case

A woman with Down’s syndrome who took Sajid Javid to court over the UK’s abortion law has lost her case in the high court.

Heidi Crowter, who brought the case alongside Máire Lea-Wilson whose son Aidan has Down’s syndrome, argued that allowing pregnancy terminations up to birth if the foetus has Down’s syndrome is discriminatory and stigmatises disabled people.

The trio, from Brentford, west London challenged Javid over the Abortion Act 1967 which sets a 24-week time limit for abortions unless there is “substantial risk” of the child being “seriously handicapped”.

They argued it interferes with the right to respect for private life in article 8(1) of the European convention on human rights (ECHR), including the decision to become or not to become a parent and “rights to dignity, autonomy and personal development of all three claimants”.

Jason Coppel QC, representing the claimants, told the high court in London in July that Down’s syndrome was the single largest justification for “late-term abortions” justified under the Abortion Act 1967.

He said Crowter, who has her own flat, recently got married and has pursued studies up to NVQ level, “has been the subject of abuse because of her disability and believes that the existence of a law allowing abortion up to birth for babies with DS (Down’s syndrome) is a contributory cultural cause of this type of abuse”.

Lea-Wilson, who son Aidan was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome at 35 weeks gestation in 2019, had been repeatedly offered an abortion, said Coppel.

He said the current law “perpetuates and reinforces negative cultural stereotypes to the detriment of people with disabilities, such as the first (Crowter) and third (Aidan) claimants.”

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