Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Heidi Crowter to appeal High Court’s abortion ruling

Heidi Crowter, who became the first woman with Down’s syndrome to take the UK government to court, has said she will seek permission to appeal the High Court’s decision.

In July, 26-year-old Heidi together with 33-year-old Máire Lea-Wilson (whose son has Down’s syndrome) took the UK government to court over a disability clause in current law.

Currently, in England, Wales and Scotland, mothers who are pregnant with a child with Down’s syndrome can legally terminate their pregnancy up until birth. However, with ‘typical’ pregnancies, there is a 24-week limit.

Heidi and Máire argue that this law is discriminatory and stigmatises disabled people. However, the government maintained there was no evidence the law discriminated against people with Down’s syndrome, with judges finding the clause to not be unlawful.

“The fight is not over”

After the pair lost the case, Heidi said: “I am really upset not to win but the fight is not over. The judges might not think it discriminates against me, the government might not think it discriminates against me but I am telling you that I do feel discriminated against….and the verdict doesn’t change how I and thousands in the Down’s syndrome community feel.

“We face discrimination every day in schools, in the work place and in society. And now thanks to this verdict the judges have upheld discrimination in the womb too. This is a very sad day but I will keep fighting.”

Máire said the court’s ruling effectively says that her two sons “are not viewed as equals in the eyes of the law”. She described feeling “incredibly sad and disappointed that the court has chosen not to recognise the value and worth of people with Down’s syndrome.”

Máire said she will continue to fight for the rights of her child and will look to appeal the court’s judgement, because “equality should be for everyone regardless of the number of chromosomes they have.”

A decision from the Court of Appeal is expected soon

After the ruling, Heidi and her legal team took to their crowdfunding page to raise funds in order to take the case to the Court of Appeal. Just over one month later, the team have nearly reached their target and are now asking the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal. They expect to hear a decision soon.

“We are very pleased that lots of people are still supporting us and lots of people now know about the awful law. Also, people now know that people with Down’s syndrome can live amazing lives. So, on we go to the Court of Appeal – let’s do this!!” Heidi wrote.

To read more about Heidi and Máire’s Crowdfunding mission or to contribute to the next stage of the case, click here.

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