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UK woman with Down syndrome challenges discriminatory abortion law in High Court

'Basically, the court case is that a baby without Down Syndrome can be aborted up to 24 weeks, but a baby like me and James can be aborted up to birth, which is discrimination,' Heidi Carter told the BBC earlier this year. 
Tue Jul 6, 2021 - 12:11 pm EST
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LONDON, England, July 6, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A woman with Down syndrome is challenging a provision of the British Abortion Act 1967 that permits mothers to abort their disabled babies up to the moment of birth.

Heidi Carter (née Crowter), 26, appeared before the High Court of England and Wales in London today. Carter is a pro-life activist who has Down syndrome and is married to James Carter, who also has Down syndrome. She filed the joint challenge to the abortion law with Máire Lea-Wilson, mother of a boy with Down syndrome, last year. The two women issued the challenge on the basis that the Abortion Act is discriminatory toward the disabled.

“Basically, the court case is that a baby without Down syndrome can be aborted up to 24 weeks, but a baby like me and James can be aborted up to birth, which is discrimination,” she told BBC earlier this year. 

Carter pointed out that the Abortion Act precludes the abortion of healthy unborn babies after the 24-week mark, but allows mothers to abort babies with disabilities — including Down syndrome, cleft lip, and club foot — up to delivery.

Lea-Wilson also noted the discriminatory view the government takes on children with disabilities. Her son Aidan was diagnosed with Down syndrome at 34 weeks’ gestation, and doctors repeatedly pressured her to abort him.

“I have two sons that I love and value equally, but the law does not value them equally … As a mother I will do all that I can to ensure the fair and equitable treatment of my son, Aidan,” Lea-Wilson said. 

If Carter and Lea-Wilson win their case, abortions of babies with disabilities will be permitted only within the period of 24 weeks’ gestation.

In an interview with Sky News last year, Carter and her sister, Suzie Crowter, said they respect women’s choices and are looking simply for equality in the law between healthy and unhealthy unborn children. They want the Abortion Act amended to say that abortions are only allowed within the first 24 weeks of gestation, regardless of a baby’s health.

In a press release published last year Lea-Wilson said: 

Our case is not about the rights and wrongs of abortion. It’s about the specific instance of inequality in the law, whereby for a child without a disability the legal limit for abortion is 24 weeks, but you can have an abortion right up to full term with a child that does have a disability.

Carter said in the press release: 

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recently said that the United Kingdom should change its abortion law so that people like me aren’t singled out because of our disabilities. Sadly, the government decided to ignore their recommendations and didn’t change the law. So now, I am going to take the Government to court with other members of the Down’s Syndrome community to make sure that people aren’t treated differently because of their disabilities.

Both Carter and Lea-Wilson are personally committed to saving the lives of babies with disabilities like Down syndrome.

Carter attended school and worked in a children’s hair salon before the pandemic. She married James Carter last summer, with thousands watching her livestreamed wedding. She uses social media, with her Twitter and Facebook pages called “Living the Dream,” to show that the lives of people with Down syndrome are just as valuable as the lives of healthy people. 

“We want to say to the world that we have a good quality of life,” Carter said of herself and her husband.

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Carter’s mother, Liz Crowter, said that even though she struggled at first with her daughter’s Down syndrome diagnosis, Carter is “an absolute joy” and the family “can’t imagine life without her.”

Lea-Wilson similarly rejoices in her son’s life. “Aidan is a little ray of sunshine. He’s had some challenges and done so well so we’re just really proud of him. I would not change him for the world.”

Asked by Sky News what she would say to a mother thinking about aborting her disabled child, Carter said, “My message would be: just have the baby and don’t listen to the doctors because they don’t know what they’re talking about.”


  abortion, heidi crowter, uk abortion act

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