A woman with Down’s Syndrome has lost her appeal after seeking to overturn legislation which allows abortions for fetuses who have the condition.
Heidi Crowter, 27, appealed a judgment on the grounds that abortion is allowed up until birth for a fetus who is shown to have Down’s Syndrome. However, this appeal was rejected after judges ruled that the Abortion Act did not interfere with the fetus’ rights.
Crowther claimed the judgment was discriminatory for people like herself with Down’s Syndrome, suggesting it doesn’t show respect for her or other disabled people’s rights. Crowter brought the case forward with Maire lea-Wilson, 33, whose son also has the condition.
The judges Lord Justice Underhill, Lady Justice Thirlwall and Lord Justice Peter Jackson, said:
“The court recognises that many people with Down’s 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 regard it as implying that their own lives are of lesser value.
But it holds that a perception that that is what the law implies is not by itself enough to give rise to an interference with article 8 rights (to private and family life, enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights).”
Clare Murphy, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, BPAS, which provides abortion care services, said it supported the court’s verdict:
“There is no contradiction between a society which champions the rights of disabled people and one which allows women to make difficult decisions in heart-breaking situations.
If successful, this case could have had far-reaching implications. The claimants have argued in court that foetuses should have human rights – this has never been decided in law and would go against many years of legal precedent in the UK.”
Despite the judgment, Crowter said outside the court that she plans to keep fighting as she announced her intention to take the case to the Supreme Court. She stated:
“The law was made in 1967, when we were not even allowed to go to school because of our extra chromosome. So, I think it’s time that the judges move with the times and actually meet with people with Down’s syndrome.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson stated:
“It is for Parliament to decide the circumstances under which abortions should take place, allowing members to vote according to their moral, ethical, or religious beliefs.”