Down’s syndrome campaigner urges NI politicians to reject ‘discriminatory’ abortion laws

A campaigner with Down’s syndrome has urged Stormont to reject “hurtful and offensive” laws allowing abortion up to the point of birth for all disabilities, including cleft lip, club foot and Down’s syndrome, in Northern Ireland.

Last year, in the absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Assembly, politicians in Westminster voted to impose an extreme abortion regime on the province.

The Government was not required to introduce abortion for cleft lip, or other disabilities such as Down’s syndrome, to Northern Ireland.

Yet, to the dismay of disability advocacy groups, those with disabilities and their families, the Conservative Government have now introduced disability-selective abortion right up to birth.

The new regime, which also allows de facto abortion for any reason up to 24-weeks, came into force as law on 31 March.

An influential House of Lords Committee has released report which is highly critical of the new regulations.

Now, ahead of a parliamentary vote on the abortion regulations next week, Heidi Crowter has written to political party leaders in Northern Ireland requesting they reject any regulations from Westminster that allow discriminatory disability-selective abortions right up to birth.

In a letter to the Belfast Telegraph, the 24-year-old woman with Down’s syndrome said: “Boris Johnson’s Government did not have to introduce abortion for babies with Down’s syndrome up to birth to Northern Ireland. They chose to do this.

“That’s both hurtful and offensive. My life has as much value as anyone else’s.

“I am asking all MLA’s (Members of the Legislative Assembly) to reject Westminster’s regulations – please don’t vote for more discrimination against people like me.”

She added: “Do not make the mistake which was made in Great Britain in allowing discrimination against people like me just because we happen to have Down’s syndrome.

“Please let Northern Ireland continue to be a country where disabled people are valued.

“Please do not let a law come into practice which will end lives on the basis of disability and stop people like me coming into the world.”

Earlier this year, Heidi launched a landmark case against the UK Government over the discriminatory abortion law that allows disability-selective abortion right up to birth in England, Wales & Scotland.

Heidi’s legal challenge has generated widespread support from those with first-hand experience of Down’s syndrome, pro-life campaigners, disability advocates and more.

Over 4,200,000 people have watched Heidi tell Channel 5 the current law is “deeply offensive” and many more have seen her tell the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme that the current law makes her feel “unloved and unwanted”.

Her campaign has been shared tens of thousands of times on social media with people adding #ImWithHeidi to their posts.The mothers of children born with a cleft lip have also spoken out in horror against the new regime.

Pro-life Students’ Union president forced to delete tweet calling for fewer abortions

A pro-life student has been forced to delete a tweet calling for a reduction in the number of abortions and to remove his role as President of the Students’ Union from his social media profile.

Gabriel Baraldi, a student at Bournemouth & Poole College, published a tweet expressing the view that “abortions should be reduced to when the woman’s life is at risk only”.

Following its publication, the tweet attracted a number of derogatory and vitriolic responses from those who disagreed, including one which said Gabriel’s mother should have aborted him.

Complaints were then made to Bournemouth & Poole College who passed them on to the Executive Committee of the Students’ Union, which is run by students.

The Executive Committee considered the tweet offensive and, according to Archbishop Cranmer, asked Gabriel to delete it and remove his role as President of the Students’ Union from his Twitter bio – a position he was democratically elected to by fellow members of the Students’ Union. 

Responding to the censorship, Gabriel said: “I hope people are happy they got to shut down yet another debate and point of discussion.”

“You haven’t won the debate, you’ve simply suppressed it,” he added.

Dr Rakib Ehsan, a columnist at Spiked Online which used to rank universities on free speech, picked up on this tweet: “Irrespective of your thoughts on Gabriel’s comment, worth having a look at the responses.

“Many left-wing students/activists are unable to provide a coherent opposing view. Shutdown culture and campus identity politics will create a huge wave of low-grade degree holders.”

While this incident may seem small, it is just the latest example of pro-life speech being censored in education settings across the UK.

In what is believed to be the first case of its kind, Julia Rynkiewicz was forced to suspend her studies at Nottingham University over her pro-life views.

The final year midwifery student was suspended from her course and became the subject of an almost four-monthlong investigation.

Additionally, she faced expulsion from her degree after lecturers raised concerns about her involvement with the Nottingham Students for Life (NSFL) society.

Julia believes she was unfairly targeted over her views and has asked Nottingham University to make a formal apology. If they fail to do so, she could carry her case through to the ombudsman and then on to court.

Last year, Strathclyde Students for Life in Glasgow were forced to remove their stall from a university freshers’ fair following complaints from the Students’ Union who claimed the pro-life group breached their safe-space policies.

In what appears to becoming a pattern at universities across the UK, many pro-life groups have been hindered in their ability to speak freely and enjoy the same benefits as other student societies.

Student representative bodies at Aberdeen University, Glasgow University, Nottingham University, and at Strathclyde University have all had to reverse their decisions to refuse affiliation to pro-life groups after the groups raised the prospect of legal proceedings.

In 2018, the Joint Committee on Human Rights released a report on Freedom of Speech in Universities, which criticised growing restrictions on free speech and the new phenomenon of ‘no-platforming’ policies on UK campuses and the exclusion of pro-life views.

A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:

“Universities were once considered a key forum in which ideas and opinions could be discussed and argued, however, more and more we are seeing attempts to censor the pro-life view from being discussed on campus.

“It’s sad to see the incredible amount of vitriol directed at Gabriel for expressing a view shared by millions of other people his age. The behaviour of both individual students and the Students’ Union Executive Committee sets a dangerous precedent for freedom of speech and expression more generally.”