Teaming up to battle the UK’s discrimination against unborn babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome

By Dave Andrusko

Often, a movement for social justice may not take flight until it has a “face.” That is, when attempting to motivate the public to battle an injustice, it can make an enormous difference if someone comes to represent the evil that needs to be overcome.

Enter, perhaps, Heidi Crowter, a 24-year-old young woman with Down syndrome, who “has launched a lawsuit against the UK government, seeking to change British laws that allow for babies with Down syndrome to be aborted up until birth,” The Catholic News Agency [CNA] reports.

Crowter recently told journalists, “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. 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.”

As hard as it may seem to believe, Crowter is not exaggerating in the least. The UK has some very lax late-late abortion guidelines. As the advocacy group “Don’t Screen Us Out” writes, “Currently in England, Wales and Scotland, there is a general 24-week time limit for abortion, but if the baby has a disability, including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot, abortion is legal right up to birth.”

Speaking of Don’t Screen Us Out,” The CNA’s Jonah McKeown explains, “The “Don’t Screen Us Out” campaign in the United Kingdom has, for the past four years, been drawing awareness to and seeking to change the UK’s abortion laws, seeking to amend Abortion Act of 1967 so that abortions for non-fatal disabilities are outlawed in the third trimester, which starts around 28 weeks of pregnancy.”

There are many, many of what Don’t Screen Us Out describes as “disability-selective abortions”- 3,269 in 2018. Of those, 618 were for Down syndrome.

This represents a 42% increase in abortion for Down syndrome in the last ten years with figures rising from 436 in 2008.

But the numbers are likely much higher, according to Don’t Screen Us Out. 

A 2013 review showed 886 foetuses were aborted for Down syndrome in England and Wales in 2010 but only 482 were reported in Department of Health records. The underreporting was confirmed by a 2014 Department of Health review.

Crowter has teamed up with Cheryl Bilsborrow from Preston, whose two year-old son Hector has Down syndrome, in a landmark lawsuit against the government. Don’t Screen us out is supporting them.

“Launching this case gets people talking about it,” said spokeswoman Lynn Murray.

“We are keen for people with Down syndrome to advocate for themselves. And this is what Heidi has decided to do…she feels that abortion after 24 weeks suggests that the lives of people like her don’t have the same value as everyone else.”