Legislation allowing abortion of Down syndrome babies until birth upheld by Court of Appeal | UK News

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The Court of Appeal has upheld legislation allowing the abortion of babies with Down syndrome until birth, following a challenge by a woman with the condition.

Heidi Crowter, 27, from Coventry, brought the case against the Department of Health and Social Care in the hope of removing part of the abortion law.

Judges ruled in September last year that the legislation was not unlawful and was intended to strike a balance between the rights of the unborn child and the rights of women.

The case was reviewed by the Court of Appeal at a hearing in July.

In a summary of the decision by Lord Justice Underhill, Lady Justice Thirlwall and Lord Justice Peter Jackson, the judges said the law does not interfere with the rights of the “living disabled”.

They said: “The court recognizes that many people with Down’s syndrome and other disabilities will be upset and offended by the fact that a diagnosis of severe disability during pregnancy is treated by law as grounds for dismissal and that they may regard it as implies that their own lives are of less value.

Heidi Crowter speaks to the media outside the Royal Courts of Justice in central London after losing an appeal court challenge

“But it is true that a perception that this is what the law implies is not in itself enough to give rise to an interference with the Article 8 rights (to private and family life enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights ).”

Speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London in response to the ruling, Crowter said she may take her case to the Supreme Court.

“I am very sorry not to win again, but I will continue to fight because we have already informed and changed hearts and minds and changed people’s minds about the law,” she told reporters.

Heidi Crowter with her husband James Carter
Heidi Crowter with her husband James Carter

“I am very sad that babies with Down syndrome can be aborted up until birth. It tells me that I am not valued and of much less value than someone without Down syndrome.

“I’m angry that the judges say my feelings don’t matter. It makes me feel like I’m not as valuable as someone without Down syndrome.

“When we first started this lawsuit, not many people knew about the law, but now many, many people know about the law thanks to us and your amazing support.

“We would like to thank everyone who donated their time and money to our trial.”

In England, Wales and Scotland there is a 24-week deadline for obtaining an abortion. The laws allow terminations until birth if there is “a substantial risk that, if born, the child would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously disabled,” which includes Down syndrome.

Supporters of Heidi Crowter and Maire Lea-Wilson outside the Royal Courts of Justice in central London

Jason Coppell KC, representing Mrs Crowter and Maire Lea-Wilson, mother of Aidan, a young boy with Down syndrome, who brought the appeal with Mrs Crowter, told the court back in July: “Its effect is to stereotype life as a disabled or severely disabled person as not worth living and certainly as having less value than life as an able-bodied person, affecting the feelings of self-worth and self-confidence of disabled people such as Mrs Crowter.”

Coppell said the law used “outdated” language that is considered offensive and unacceptable by some.

In their ruling last year, Lord Justice Singh and Mrs Justice Lieven concluded that legislation is a matter for Parliament, which can take into account a range of views, rather than the courts.

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