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Woman with Down Syndrome Sues U.K. over Abortion Law that Targets Disabled Babies

Michael Foust | Contributor | Wednesday, June 17, 2020
Woman with Down Syndrome Sues U.K. over Abortion Law that Targets Disabled Babies

Woman with Down Syndrome Sues U.K. over Abortion Law that Targets Disabled Babies

A 24-year-old British woman with Down syndrome is urging the government to change the current law so that unborn children with her genetic condition can’t be targeted with abortion.

Heidi Crowter, a political activist with Down syndrome, joined forces earlier this year with British mom Cheryl Bilsborrow in a lawsuit against the government over the abortion law in England, Wales and Scotland. (Bilsborrow has a child with Down syndrome.)

Although British abortion law is generally more restrictive than that in the U.S. – there is a 24-week-limit in the U.K. – it allows abortions up to the moment of birth if the baby has a disability, including Down syndrome, cleft lip or club foot.

Crowter and Bilsborrow have raised more than $50,000 USD on a crowdfunding website for their legal fees.

“Babies can be aborted right up to birth if they are considered to be ‘seriously handicapped,” Crowter said in a press release. “They include me in that definition of being seriously handicapped – just because I have an extra chromosome! Can you believe that? 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.”

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, she noted, has criticized nations that allow abortion on the basis of disabilities.

Crowter’s campaign has received mainstream media attention, including in the BBC and London newspapers.

There were 3,269 disability-selective abortions in 2018, including 618 for Down syndrome, according to the press release. The 2018 data for Down syndrome represents a 42 percent increase over the previous decade.

More than 90 percent of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in England and Wales are aborted, according to Right to Life UK.

Meanwhile, Crowter delivered 18,000 signed petitions to 10 Downing Street this week asking British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to oppose expanding Northern Ireland’s abortion law to permit abortions on unborn babies with disabilities up to the moment of birth. The petition asked Parliament to let the people of Northern Ireland decide the issue. The House of Commons passed the bill, 253-136.

“I think it sends a really negative message,” she said of the bill that passed. “And in the words of a classic song, you are amazing just the way you are.”

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Tatiana Dyuvbanova

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.