Challenging the UK Government over the current law which allows abortion until birth for babies with disabilities

 By Dave Andrusko

“A landmark case” must be close to the most over-used, over-hyped phrase in modern reporting. Not every case qualifies in any objective sense, of course, it only seems that way sometimes. Usually the phrase is a sign of reportorial disapproval—for example with respect to the Mississippi abortion that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear this fall which as the usual suspects’ knickers in a knot.

A legal definition is more precise; here’s an example. A landmark case

is a court case that is studied because it has historical and legal significance.  The most significant cases are those that have had a lasting effect on the application of a certain law, often concerning your individual rights and liberties.

With this as background, let me offer an example from Great Britain that qualifies on all fronts as potentially a landmark case.

Heidi Crowter, a 25-year-old woman from Coventry who has Down’s syndrome, together with Máire Lea-Wilson from Brentford, West London, whose twenty-three-month-old son Aidan has Down’s syndrome, are challenging the UK Government over a disability clause in the current law. 

What is the law they insist is an example of “discriminatory abortion”? Believe it or not, current law in England, Wales, and Scotland allows abortion up to birth for babies with disabilities—most often Down syndrome, but also babies prenatally diagnosed with cleft lip and club foot.

We’ve posted and reposted about Crowter and Lea-Wilson multiple times. As Right to Life UK writes

Ms. Lea-Wilson has spoken frequently about how she was “placed under intense pressure” to have an abortion after a 34-week scan revealed her son had Down’s syndrome.

Ahead of the court case she said: “I have two sons that I love and value equally, but the law does not value them equally. This is wrong and so we want to try and change that…We proclaim that we live in a society that values those with disabilities, that everyone deserves a fair and equal chance at life, regardless of their ability status. This law undermines that narrative, does it really have a place in 2021

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.

Heidi Crowter is illustrating the power of a single determined woman. The 25-year-old woman is a tireless advocate for disability rights.

When she helped launch the lawsuit, Crowter 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,” Jonah McKeown of the Catholic News Agency (CNA)’s 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.”

Which, of course, is why pro-abortionists so passionately defend abortions based on disability,  race, or sex and are so adamant that the United Kingdom’s laissez faire abortion laws not be tightened up.

As the trial unfolded this week,  Crowter told reporters, “This law makes me feel I am better off dead, I know I’m not, but that’s how it makes me feel.” She told supporters

“There is no difference between me and someone who doesn’t have Down’s syndrome, like my nephew. Life is good for people like me and abortion law needs to show that. Everybody is equal, and doctors shouldn’t tell women that they will be sorry if their child is born. They should be supporting them.”

The Guardian’s Haroon Siddique reported

Jason Coppel QC, representing the claimants, told the high court in London on Tuesday that Crowter, who has her own flat, recently got married and has pursued studies up to NVQ level, “has been the subject of abuse because of her disability and believes that the existence of a law allowing abortion up to birth for babies with DS [Down’s syndrome] is a contributory cultural cause of this type of abuse”.

Aidan was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome at 35 weeks’ gestation in 2019 and his mother was repeatedly offered an abortion. “The pressure she was put under, the lack of support offered to her, the guilt she was made to feel for not having undergone screening, the impression conveyed that by going ahead with the pregnancy she would be going against medical advice, the negativity about DS and the fear engendered about having a child with DS all conveyed the message to her that a life with DS was of no value,” said Coppel.

Some 90% of all babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. And the number of targets can only mount as improved  prenatal diagnostic techniques are used more widely.