Heidi Crowter, 26, is bringing legal action over a ruling that allows the abortion of babies with the condition up until birth. She is fighting the Department of Health and Social Care in the hope of removing a section of the Abortion Act she believes to be an “instance of inequality”. Ms Crowter, from Coventry, said: “I am someone who has Down’s syndrome and I find it extremely offensive that a law doesn’t respect my life, and I won’t stand for it. “I want to change the law and I want to challenge people’s perception of Down’s syndrome. I want them to look at me and say, ‘This is just a normal person.’
“That’s what this is about. It’s about telling people that we’re just humans with feelings.”
In England, Wales and Scotland there is a 24-week time limit on having an abortion.
But terminations can be allowed up until birth if there is “a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped”, which includes Down’s syndrome.
At a two-day High Court hearing that began yesterday, lawyers on behalf of Ms Crowter argued the law is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, and therefore unlawfully discriminatory.
A demonstration was held outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London ahead of the landmark case, during which dozens of people held banners, some of which read: “Love doesn’t count chromosomes.”
Maire Lea-Wilson, 33, whose son Aidan has Down’s syndrome, is also bringing the case. She said: “I was 34 weeks pregnant when I discovered Aidan had Down’s syndrome, and I was asked if I wanted to terminate the pregnancy.
“I want Aidan to grow up knowing he’s not someone people have to cope with. He’s not a burden to society, he is a wonderful human being in his own right.
“I want the law to change so that the rules for a typical baby apply for those with Down’s syndrome.”
The Government said the case should be dismissed on the grounds there is no evidence of a connection between the law and discrimination against those with Down’s syndrome, and that it does not constitute “negative stereotyping”.
A spokesman said: “The Government is deeply committed to eliminating disability discrimination. There is a broad range of measures in domestic law which are aimed at disability discrimination and advancing equality of opportunity.”
It is expected the court will give its ruling at a later date.
Author: Hanna Geissler
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