Women campaigning for an end to laws that allow abortions up to birth for Down’s syndrome have vowed to continue their fight after the High Court ruled against them.
Leading spokeswomen Heidi Carter (née Crowter), who has Down’s syndrome, and Marie-Lea Wilson, who has a son with Down’s syndrome, have said they will seek permission to take their case to the Court of Appeal.
The Don’t Screen Us Out campaign pursued joint legal action against the government for permitting abortion up to birth for non-fatal foetal anomalies such as Down’s syndrome.
In the UK, abortion can be carried out until 24 weeks and then until birth if the unborn baby is suspected of having a foetal anomaly (disability).
The campaigners have argued that the law amounts to ‘discrimination’ against people with disabilities, and violates the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), including the right to life.
But in its judgment passed down, the High Court rejected their arguments, stating there was no ‘precedent from the ECHR that a foetus has rights under the ECHR’.
The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has consistently criticised countries that provide for abortion on the basis of disability.
The 2013 Parliamentary Inquiry into Abortion for Disability found the vast majority of those who gave evidence believed allowing abortion up to birth on the grounds of disability is discriminatory, contrary to the spirit of the Equality Act 2010, and that it affects wider public attitudes towards discrimination.
Speaking after the High Court ruling, Heidi Carter 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. The verdict doesn’t change how I and thousands in the Down’s syndrome community feel.’
Paul Conrathe, solicitor at Sinclairslaw, said, ‘This is a disappointing judgment that is out of step with modern attitudes to disability.
‘By allowing babies with Down’s syndrome to be aborted up to birth, unlike neurotypical babies, the law sends a powerful message that the lives of people with Down’s Syndrome are of lesser value.
‘My clients will be seeking permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal.’