Something positive

for a change…Heidi Crowter

Heidi Crowter and her husband James outside the Royal Courts of Justice from Guardian Friday, November 25th

“A woman with Down’s syndrome has lost a court of appeal challenge over late-stage abortions of foetuses with certain health conditions.

Heidi Crowter, who brought the case alongside Máire Lea-Wilson, whose son Aidan also has Down’s syndrome, had argued that allowing pregnancy terminations up to birth if the foetus has the condition is discriminatory and stigmatised disabled people.

But in a ruling on Friday, three senior judges dismissed the appeal and said abortion laws were for parliament to decide. Crowter, 27, said she was ‘absolutely distraught’ by the ruling and the existing law made her feel that people like her should be ‘extinct’.

In a summary of the decision, by Lord Justice Underhill, Lady Justice Thirlwall, and Lord Justice Peter Jackson, the judges said 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. But it holds that a perception that that is what the law implies is not by itself enough to give rise to an interference with article 8 rights [to private and family life, enshrined in the European Convention on human rights].’

Speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London after the ruling, Crowter and her mother, Liz, said they would take the case to the supreme court. Crowter, who is from Coventry, said: ‘I will not stop until I am seen as equal in society.’

Asked why she wanted to change the law, Crowter told Sky News: ‘It makes me feel that I shouldn’t be here. That I should be extinct. I know that’s not true, but that’s how it makes me feel.’ She highlighted how the law treated her newly born nephew. ‘I was flabbergasted that the law protects him and not me,’
she said.” 

Yes, I have always believed in a woman’s right to choose, however, that right ends at 24 weeks
of pregnancy unless the foetus has a disability like Down’s Syndrome. Obviously, that means the life of a foetus that has Down’s Syndrome is of less value than one without which of course discriminates against everyone who has Down Syndrome as the clear implication is that they are of less value. 

I hope that’s not the finding of the inquiry as to why those with learning disabilities were six times more likely to die of Covid than everyone else – what happened if there was only one ventilator and two people who needed it? I hope who got the ventilator was always on purely medical grounds.

Actually the positive in all this is Heidi Crowter – below is an interview she gave to Francesca Woodstock for Woman Magazine.

“I’ll be the voice for those who can’t speak. Heidi Crowter, 27, is a campaigner for Down’s Syndrome rights, including the right to life. She lives in Coventry with her husband James, 29.

‘The night I was born my mum Liz told me she was afraid. not because I had Down’s syndrome, but because she was worried I’d never get married, or live a ‘normal’ life. But even as a baby, I was determined to prove that I was a fighter.

Born with a hole in my heart, I had to have open-heart surgery. I was diagnosed with leukemia, pneumonia, and kidney failure, and I even stopped breathing, but as I recovered, I kept smiling.

I started mainstream school, just like my three siblings, and having Down’s syndrome never stopped me making friends. I was a born chatterbox – I loved to talk, dance, and be silly. After finishing school, I started working at a hair salon, and I dyed my hair all different colours – never afraid to stand out.

Aged 20, I moved to my own flat in a supported-living centre, and when I met a young man called James, who also had Down’s syndrome, over Facebook, we became firm friends. After a year of messaging each other online, in October 2017 we met in person at a bowling alley in Basingstoke.

James, then 24, arrived with flowers and chocolates and, after an amazing date, we shared a kiss. Later I found out that James had gone home that day and written his wedding speech! We both knew we’d found the one. A year later, when James proposed, my mum, admitted how she’d felt on the night I was born. ‘What a ridiculous thing to think,’ I told her waving the ring on my finger.

I’d spent my whole life proving that Down’s syndrome couldn’t hold me back. So when I found out the UK law state that babies with Down’s syndrome, or a ‘serious handicap’, can be aborted right up until the birth. I was stunned. All other pregnancies can only be terminated up until 24 weeks. It was
heartbreaking to think of people not being given a chance, just because of an extra chromosome.

Fighting for change In February 2020, I started a campaign called Downright Discrimination, fighting to change the law. I wanted to be the voice for those who couldn’t speak, to show we have a right to exist and nothing could stop us living life to the full.

In July 2020, when lockdown restrictions allowed, Janes and I married in a ceremony with just 30 people, and we live-streamed our wedding to 200 guests. Both me and my husband have Down’s syndrome, but that doesn’t make us any less entitled to life. Now, James has moved into my assisted-living flat; we cook, watch football and we love each other just the way we are. I won’t stop fighting until the law is amended. My life is worth living, and I wouldn’t change a thing.”

The fact that the law quoted still speaks in terms of “handicap’ suggests it’s in need of updating.

#DownrightDiscrimination #HeidiCrowter #mencap



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