The Court of Appeal will hear a landmark case against the UK Government over its discriminatory abortion laws after a judge granted permission for the case to be heard.
Heidi Crowter, 26, from Coventry, who herself has Down’s syndrome, is challenging the Government over a disability clause in its abortion legislation, together with Máire Lea-Wilson from Brentford, west London, who was placed under pressure to have an abortion when a 34-week scan revealed her son Aidan, now two, had Down’s syndrome.
Two High Court judges ruled that the current abortion legislation, which permits abortion up to 24 weeks in general but allows abortion up-to-birth in cases of disability including Down’s syndrome, is not unlawful.
“People shouldn’t be treated differently because of their disabilities, it’s downright discrimination”.
Earlier this week however, Lord Justice Peter Jackson, sitting with Lady Justice Nicola Davies, granted permission for the case to be heard by the Court of Appeal. The Justices found that the High Court was wrong to say that the Abortion Act did not interfere with the applicants’ right to private and family life and freedom from discrimination.
Lord Justice Peter Jackson said: “It is at least arguable that the treatment of the question of interference… was not adequate”.
“Even if the appeal is likely to fail for other reasons, this is an area where clarity is important and the applicants and others in their position are entitled to know where the law stands on the question of their rights and whether they have been interfered with”.
In response to the grant of appeal, Heidi said: “The law says that babies shouldn’t be aborted up to birth, but if a baby is found to have Down’s syndrome, it can be aborted up until birth. This is the current law in the UK and I think it’s not fair”.
“I hope we win. People shouldn’t be treated differently because of their disabilities, it’s downright discrimination”.
Abortion is legal up to birth if the baby is prenatally diagnosed with Down’s syndrome
Ms Lea-Wilson said: “I am thrilled to hear that the case will be heard by the Court of Appeal, and I hope that this will be the time that we all stand up for equality”.
“My motivation for taking this joint legal action with Heidi has always been simple. As a mother, I will do all that I can to ensure the fair and equitable treatment of my son, Aidan”.
Heidi Crowter is a self-advocate who has campaigned for the last five years for equal treatment for those with Down’s syndrome in all areas of life.
Heidi and her team have crowdfunded over £125,000 for the case.
Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said: “This is excellent news for a really important campaign, especially after the case was stopped in its tracks last September. It is perfectly obvious that the law directly discriminates against people with Down’s syndrome and people with disabilities in general”.
“We wish Heidi, Máire, and all those campaigning all the best in their efforts, and hope that when the case is brought before the Court of Appeals, an outcome that demonstrates disabled peoples equal right to life is made”.