UK woman with Down syndrome loses appeal challenging abortion laws News
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UK woman with Down syndrome loses appeal challenging abortion laws

Heidi Crowter, a UK woman with Down syndrome, Friday lost an appeal over late-stage abortions of fetuses with certain health conditions. Crowter argued that the Abortion Act of 1967, which allows terminations up until birth if there is, “a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped,” including Down syndrome, was discriminatory.

In England, Wales and Scotland, there is a 24-week time limit on having an abortion. However, the relevant legislation, the Abortion Act 1967, provides an exception to that rule. Crowter challenged the act, arguing that allowing pregnancy terminations up to birth if the fetus has the condition is discriminatory and stigmatizes disabled people. However, a panel of three judges dismissed the appeal, claiming that abortion laws are for Parliament to decide.

In the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Underhill, Lady Justice Thirlwall and Lord Justice Peter Jackson, ruled that the act did not interfere with the rights of the “living disabled.” They said:

The court recognises that many people with Down’s syndrome and other disabilities will be upset and offended by the fact that a diagnosis of serious disability during pregnancy is treated by the law as a justification for termination, and that they may regard it as implying that their own lives are of lesser value.

The court ultimately found that any perception of discrimination was not itself enough to interfere with Crowter’s human rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.