Royal Courts of Justice High Court abortion law case

8th July 2021 • My Family Our Needs

This week, on 6th and 7th July, campaigner Heidi Crowter, accompanied by her husband and her mum, went to the High Court to attempt to change the law surrounding the abortion of babies with Down’s Syndrome.

In England, Scotland and Wales, terminations are permitted beyond the general 24-week time limit if there is ‘substantial risk’ that the child will be born with a serious physical or mental disability. Pregnant women can stop the birth of a severely disabled baby up to 36+ weeks without any reason.

Heidi, 26, from Coventry, says the law in its current form is ‘unfair’.

On her Crowd Justice campaigning support page, Heidi said, ‘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! If you agree, please contribute what you can to our legal challenge and share this page with your friends, family and on social media.’

Case background

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recently said that the United Kingdom should change its abortion law to make sure that people like Heidi aren’t singled out because of their disabilities.

However, the Government decided to ignore its recommendations and didn’t change the law.

So now, Heidi has taken 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.

Heidi and her supporters have said that the UK has a legal duty to ensure equality to protect people with disabilities but, when it comes to abortion law, the Government just isn’t listening.

Messages of support

There has been so much support for Heidi’s case across social media and on her campaigning channels.

BAFTA-award-winning actor Tommy Jessop, who has Down’s Syndrome and acted on the popular BBC drama Line of Duty, said on Twitter, ‘We are not talking about abortion, but about #discrimination and treating people who have #Downsyndrome and other disabilities equally before and after birth. That is only fair. That’s a fact. Good luck @HeidiCrowter95.’

People First – a national self-advocacy organisation run by and for people with learning difficulties – published a message of support ahead of the court case. In a news statement, Director Andrew Lee and Chair Christine Spooner said, ‘#DownrightDiscrimination is about the screening of disabilities on grounds of equality and human rights. This is being led by Heidi Crowter and others. Some of us have been fighting for our freedom. This court case is about fighting for our right to exist. Every person should have the same opportunities; there should not be any inequality of opportunity. The UK Government signed up to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 12 years ago. One of the guiding principles is ‘Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity’. Article 10 (Right to Life) is about every human being having the inherent right to life on an equal basis with others. We want to have the same opportunities to life and living as everyone else.’

Jamie McCallum, Chairman and Trustee at Wouldn’t Change a Thing, the organisation dedicated to changing the outdated perceptions of Down’s Syndrome, told MFON, ‘No adult with Down’s Syndrome, with all of the joy and benefits they bring to their families and communities, should have to consider such an institutional vote of no-confidence in their character and overt dismissal of the basic human rights and respect that most of us take for granted.’

Jamie added, ‘What Heidi is fighting for is nothing other than parity in the law for people like her to match that of everyone else in mainstream society. It happens to be about termination for this case, but the implications make it a simple but powerful landmark request that will help to equalise the rights and opportunities of all people with disabilities for many years to come.

‘Wouldn’t Change a Thing will be supportive of any and all efforts to create equality and opportunity for people with Down’s Syndrome and, for that reason, #ImWithHeidi and #ImWithAidan.’

Case progress

To date, Heidi and her team have raised £106,777 to help pay for legal costs for the case. In an email message to her supporters, Heidi said, ‘What a couple of days! It has been amazing, and you have all made this possible. We have been lifted up and cheered on by all of you, thank you thank you.’

In relation to the case, Heidi concluded by saying, ‘Arguments about whether there are negative stereotypes around disability reinforced by the law, whether the court are the right people to decide this, whether the abortion act is incompatible with the Human Rights Act, so much talking!’

It could take a few months until a judgment is handed down – possibly not until the Autumn. Heidi’s infectious energy and determination will not end and she cannot wait to ‘have a party’ with all of her loyal supporters and friends once the judgment has been arrived at.

Watch this space … the MFON team will keep you updated with the case’s progress. If you would like to hear directly from Heidi, you can do so by visiting her Twitter and by visiting her campaigning page

If you would like to comment on this story and share your support and views, get in touch with the MFON team. We would love to hear from you.