Over 35,000 watch woman with Down’s syndrome marry, ahead of disability abortion challenge

Heidi Crowter, who has Down’s syndrome and is challenging the UK’s discriminatory abortion law, got married last weekend in one of the first post-lockdown weddings to take place since Government restrictions were lifted.

The 25-year-old was able to marry her partner James Carter, 26, at Hillfields Church, Coventry on Saturday 4 July – their original planned date.

However, due to the current guidelines, they had to cut their guest list down from over 220 people to just 30.

As a result, the ceremony was live streamed online, allowing the other 190 guests to watch the couple tie the knot.

The livestream was so popular over 1,000 people were watching at one point, while a recording of the ceremony has been watched by over 35,000 people.

Speaking to ITV News, Heidi proclaimed: “It was the best day of my life.”

And, yesterday morning, James told BBC 5 Live: “I married my best friend.”

Before the wedding on Saturday, Heidi and James had not seen each other in over three months, due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“It was really upsetting that we hadn’t seen each other,” Heidi told the BBC. “It was like being in prison.”

James has now relocated to Coventry, “to spend my life with Heidi”, and the newlyweds are enjoying a “staycation honeymoon”, with their plans to visit Italy on hold.

The couple are planning a “big celebration” next year after having to swap their reception for a meal at the pub.

Heidi’s landmark case

Earlier this year, Heidi Crowter launched a landmark case against the UK Government over current abortion legislation that singles out babies with disabilities, allowing abortion right through to birth for conditions including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot.

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 5,000,000 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”.

Heidi’s campaign has been shared tens of thousands of times on social media, with people adding #ImWithHeidi to their posts.

She has now been joined in her legal fight, against discriminatory disability-selective abortion, by Máire Lea-Wilson, whose one-year-old son, Aidan, has Down’s syndrome.

Máire has said she was encouraged in hospital to abort Aidan when a scan at 34-weeks revealed he had the condition.

Recalling her experience, she told Sky News: “I felt like the assumption was that we would abort our baby.”

The mother of two added: “I have two sons and I love and value them equally and I think it seems really wrong that the law doesn’t value them equally.”

Heidi and Máire’s case is being presented by solicitor Paul Conrathe of Sinclairslaw, who has lodged papers at the High Court.

Prime Minister receives huge petition against disability abortion from Heidi Crowter

Heidi Crowter, a 24-year-old woman who has Down’s syndrome, has delivered an open letter to Boris Johnson against an abortion law which makes her feel like she would be “better off dead”.

The petition, which was signed by over 18,000 people from Northern Ireland, urges the Prime Minister and other British MPs to let the people of Northern Ireland decide its own abortions laws.

If the same proportion of the UK population signed a similar petition it would equate to over 600,000 people.

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

Under the new regulations abortion is allowed up to the point of birth for all disabilities, including cleft lip, club foot and Down’s syndrome.

MPs are scheduled to vote on whether to approve the extreme abortion regulations tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s vote follows the last Westminster vote on Northern Ireland’s abortion legislation, almost one year ago, in which 100% of Northern Irish MPs present voted against the proposals.

However, abortion was imposed on Northern Ireland, regardless, because of the greater number of English, Welsh and Scottish MPs, enforcing their different view on the province.

Northern Irish MPs have continued to speak out against the changes and a number of them, including Carla Lockhart, joined Heidi today at Downing Street.

‘Downright discrimination in the womb’

Speaking at Downing Street, today, Heidi said: “I’m asking MPs to respect the vote of Northern Ireland and make sure that it stands and to allow equality in the womb for every baby.

“I want this to happen because I’m someone who has Down’s Syndrome and I feel that the law makes me upset, it makes me feel like I’m better off dead.

“I think it sends a really negative message.”

She added: “I think the law which allows abortion up to birth for non-fatal disabilities such as mine is downright discrimination in the womb.”

‘Both lives matter’

Carla Lockhart MP who launched the petition with Baroness O’Loan said:

“Today at Westminster, along with colleagues and Heidi Crowter, we have delivered a petition to the Government saying no to the extreme abortion regulations that are being forced on the people of Northern Ireland.

“Along with over 18,000 people from Northern Ireland who signed the petition, we want to send a clear message to the Government that the people of Northern Ireland do not want Westminster imposing these extreme abortion laws on them.

“Instead, we join with Heidi Crowter in saying ‘no’ to discriminatory disability-selective abortion.

“We join Heidi in saying both lives matter.

“It is not the right of this Government to implement such far-reaching abortion laws on Northern Ireland that will see abortion up to birth for disability.

“So, as the vote takes place I am urging Westminster MPs to allow the devolved region to legislate in regards to abortion.”

Mother of baby with Down’s syndrome joins landmark case against discriminatory abortion law

The mother of a baby with Down’s syndrome is challenging the UK Government’s discriminatory abortion law which singles out babies with disabilities allowing abortion right through to birth – even for including cleft lip, cleft palate, club foot and Down’s syndrome.

Máire Lea-Wilson, whose eleven month-old son Aidan has Down’s syndrome, says she was encouraged in hospital to abort her son when a scan at 34-weeks revealed he had the condition.

The mother has joined forces with Heidi Crowter, a 24-year-old woman from Coventry who has Down’s syndrome, to bring forward the landmark case against the UK Government.

Recalling her experience, Máire said: “I felt like the assumption was that we would abort our baby.”

Earlier this week, she told Sky News: “I have two sons and I love and value them equally and I think it seems really wrong that the law doesn’t value them equally.”

Heidi Crowter added: “It’s downright discrimination”.

Their case is being presented by solicitor Paul Conrathe of Sinclairslaw, who will lodge papers at the High Court this week.

Currently, abortion is available up to birth in England, Wales and Scotland if the baby has a disability, including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot whereas if the baby does not have a condition, there is a 24-week time limit.

In 2018, there were 3,269 disability-selective abortions. 618 of these were for Down’s syndrome, representing a 42% increase in abortion for Down’s syndrome in the last ten years with figures rising from 436 in 2008 – and the figures could be much higher.

In a 2013 review on disability-selective abortions, it was revealed 886 babies were aborted for Down’s syndrome in England and Wales in 2010 but only 482 of these were reported in official Department of Health records. The underreporting was confirmed in 2014, in a Department of Health review.

The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has consistently criticised countries which provide for abortion on the basis of disability. 

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Concluding observations on the initial report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland made a key recommendation that the UK change its abortion law on disability so that it does not single out babies with disabilities. The Government continues to ignore this recommendation.

The Disability Rights Commission (now the Equality and Human Rights Commission) have said that this aspect of the Abortion Act “is offensive to many people; it reinforces negative stereotypes of disability…[and] is incompatible with valuing disability and non-disability equally”.

The 2013 Parliamentary Inquiry into Abortion for Disability found the vast majority of those who gave evidence believed allowing abortion up to birth on the grounds of disability is discriminatory, contrary to the spirit of the Equality Act 2010 and that it affects wider public attitudes towards discrimination. The Inquiry recommended Parliament reviews the question of allowing abortion on the grounds of disability and should consider repealing section 1(1)(d) of the Abortion Act which allows for it.

Disabled peer Lord Shinkwin had a Bill in the House of Lords that would have repealed section 1(1)(d) of the Abortion Act – the Bill was undefeated but unfortunately ran out of time. Lord Shinkwin’s Bill was supported by Disability Rights UK.

Boris Johnson’s Government has recently introduced new abortion regulations to Northern Ireland. The regulation that the Northern Ireland Office introduced allow abortion up to birth for disabilities including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot.

Over 1,800 people with Down’s syndrome and their families signed a letter to Boris Johnson urging him to ensure that selective abortion for Down’s syndrome was not introduced to Northern Ireland.

Polling has shown that the majority of people in England, Wales and Scotland feel that disability should not be a grounds for abortion at all, with only one in three people thinking it is acceptable to ban abortion for gender or race but allow it for disability.

Heidi Crowter, from Coventry, who has Down’s syndrome said:

“At the moment in the UK, babies can be aborted right up to birth if they are considered to be “seriously handicapped”. They include me in that definition of being seriously handicapped – just because I have an extra chromosome! Can you believe that?

“What it says to me is that my life just isn’t as valuable as others, and I don’t think that’s right. I think it’s downright discrimination! 

“The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recently said that the United Kingdom should change its abortion law to make sure that people like me aren’t singled out because of our disabilities. 

“Sadly, the Government decided to ignore their recommendations and didn’t change the law. So now, I am going to take the Government to court with other members of the Down’s syndrome community to make sure that people aren’t treated differently because of their disabilities.”

Máire said: “I have two sons and I love and value them equally and I think it just seems wrong that the law doesn’t value them equally and we want to change that.

“I love and value them equally, so I don’t see why they are not valued equally by the law.

“Once it was thought the baby had Down’s syndrome, the first thing they wanted to talk about was whether we wanted to terminate the pregnancy, and I was 34 weeks pregnant, so it was quite a difficult question to get asked at a time when I was scared and vulnerable.

“It is really tough to think back on that, I find it really difficult to think that Aidan’s life isn’t seen as valuable as his older brother’s, it makes me worry as to whether he’ll be seen the same or treated the same.

“I felt like the assumption was that we would abort our baby. 

“Our case is not about the rights and wrongs of abortion. It’s about the specific instance of inequality in the law, whereby for a child without disability the legal limit is 24 weeks, but you can have an abortion right up to full term with a child that does have a disability. That just feels wrong.

“I also really worry that when he’s older if this law is still in place, how will that make him feel: that he’s not as valuable, that he doesn’t have equal worth?

“Aidan is a little ray of sunshine. I would not change him for the world.

“He’s had some challenges and done so well so we’re just really proud of him.”

Sally Phillips, actress, comedian and mother to Ollie who has Down’s syndrome told the Times: “Given advances in medical care and quality of life for people with Down’s syndrome, the different right to life is beginning to look not just dated but barbaric.”

A spokesperson for Don’t Screen Us Out, Lynn Murray said:

“By stating that disability is grounds for termination, section 1(1)(d) of the Abortion Act, promotes inequality. It would be totally condemned if a country’s abortion laws singled out babies on the ground of gender or skin colour, but because it’s a disability such as Down’s syndrome, that’s somehow ok? This is inequality, sanctioned, sponsored and funded by the state.

“This provision in the Abortion Act is a hangover from a time when we had totally different attitudes to the inclusion and contribution of people with disabilities. You only have to look at the discriminatory language used by all sides of the debate in Parliament when this was discussed in 1967 and 1990 to realise how far attitudes have changed. Society has moved on but the law hasn’t. It’s time it did.

“We live in a society which proclaims that we want to empower those with disabilities, and that regardless of your background, you deserve a fair and equal chance at life. We believe that our laws must reflect this narrative.”

Winning hearts and minds around the world: Heidi Crowter featured in Australian media

The fight of a 24-year-old woman with Down’s syndrome against the UK’s discriminatory abortion law continues to receive international attention, and was this week featured in Australian media.

Heidi Crowter has launched a landmark case against the UK Government over current legislation that singles out babies with disabilities, allowing abortion right through to birth for conditions including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot.

Last week, she urged the Northern Ireland Assembly to reject the same “hurtful and offensive” laws in Northern Ireland.

Heidi was speaking out against the UK Government’s decision to impose the same discriminatory abortion laws on Northern Ireland, something it was not required to do when it voted to impose an extreme abortion regime on the province last year.

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

In response to the Government’s actions, Heidi Crowter has written to politicians in Northern Ireland saying:

“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.

“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.”

Drawing attention to Hedi’s case, Sky News host Chris Kenny said: “A touching, brave and salient reminder about people living with disabilities has arisen during the current debate about abortion in Northern Ireland.”

He then proceeded to share a channel 5 interview of Heidi, which received over 4 million views, describing it as a “touching and powerful” address.

“Whatever you think of the abortion issue, I wanted to show you that,” he added.

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.

She has been joined in her legal fight against disability discrimination by Máire, mother to Aidan who has Down’s syndrome.

Máire said: “I have two incredible sons, and value them equally, so I was shocked to discover that the law doesn’t.”

Her campaign has been shared tens of thousands of times on social media with people adding #ImWithHeidi to their posts.