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

Landmark case over “discriminatory” abortion law to be heard by Court of Appeal

Photo credit: Don’t Screen Us Out


Heidi Crowter, a 26-year-old woman with Down’s syndrome, has won the right to appeal against the High Court over a disability clause in the current law.

Last year, Heidi and 33-year-old Máire Lea-Wilson (whose son has Down’s syndrome) took the UK government to court over a law which allows babies with Down’s syndrome to be aborted up until birth.

Since ‘typical’ babies can only be aborted up until 24 weeks, Heidi and Máire argued that the law is discriminatory.

However, the High Court ruled that the clause is not unlawful and aims to strike a balance between the rights of the unborn child and of women.

More than 3,000 disability-selective abortions occurred in 2020

Following their defeat, Heidi said she would “keep fighting” and the pair continued with their crowdfunding campaign, which has raised nearly £130,000 to cover the cost of legal proceedings and advice.

With more than 3,000 disability-selective abortions occurring in 2020, Heidi and her team want to reduce the large number of abortions occurring on the basis of disability alone.

They hold that the current law gives very little consideration to the fact that many women are pressured to abort pregnancies at late stages, in the context of fear and misinformation that is given to them.

Heidi said she hopes they now win the case, adding: “People shouldn’t be treated differently because of their disabilities, it’s downright discrimination.”

“I have two sons that I love and value equally, but the law does not value them equally”

Ms Lea-Wilson, an accountant from Brentford, West London and mother to Aidan who has Down’s syndrome said she is “thrilled” that the case will be heard in the Court of Appeal.

“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.

“My motivation for taking this joint legal action with Heidi has always been simple. As a mother, I will do all that I can to ensure the fair and equitable treatment of my son, Aidan,” she said.

“Aidan is 2 now, and he amazes me. He makes us laugh every single day. He has shown us so much about joy, tenacity and the inextricable worth of life. I wouldn’t change a single thing about him,” she added.

Although there is no date for the court case yet, Heidi and Máire say the appeal should be heard before the end of the year.

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