‘There’s no prenatal test for Awesome’

A British woman with Down syndrome lost a court challenge against the UK’s abortion law last month. She was contesting the legality of abortion up until birth of a foetus with her condition.

Heidi Crowter, 26, and two others sued the Department of Health and Social Care, arguing that the Abortion Act is discriminatory and violates the European Convention on Human Rights.

Abortions in England, Wales and Scotland are permitted up until 24 weeks of pregnancy. But 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”, abortions can be performed until birth.

Ms Crowter lives independently and was recently married. To describe her as “seriously handicapped” is absurd. She is, as disability advocates say, “differently abled”. In Ms Crowter’s eyes, the law is “offensive” and disrespectful. But the government is not listening to her – she has been erased.


Judges Rajinder Singh and Nathalie Lieven said that the case raised emotional issues but found that it did not violate international human rights law. "The fundamental difficulty … is that the European Court has never decided that a foetus, even one post-viability, is the bearer of Convention rights," concluded the High Court.

A strong argument in favour of defending the existing abortion law, the judges wrote, was that the existence of Down syndrome children seriously inconvenienced other people:

The evidence before the Court powerfully shows that there will be some families who positively wish to have a child, even knowing that it will be born with severe disabilities. But the evidence is also clear that not every family will react in that way. As it was put on behalf of the Defendant, the ability of families to provide a disabled child with a nurturing and supportive environment will vary significantly.

As a result of the law, approximately 90 percent of babies with a definite diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome are aborted in the UK. Much the same is true in other countries – so much so that in most years in Iceland, the figure is 100 percent. In Denmark, it’s 98 percent.

These morbid statistics should lead us to reflect on the twisted thinking which protects sexual minorities and kills genetic minorities.

Here is an edited paragraph from an article by Richard J. Rosendall, a former president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington.

A basic social truth is that if trans Down Syndrome people have no right to exist, then neither do you or I. Whatever your sexual orientation or gender identity genetic heritage, you are capable of looking around and recognizing that you live in a diverse society. Everyone is not the same, and is not going to be. If you seek to impose your concepts of gender physical and mental ability on others, you have no right to complain when someone does it to you.

Why the double standard? Why are legislatures, government bureaucracies, and corporations falling over each other to put a stop to the erasure of LGBTQ+ folks, and simultaneously supporting the barbarism of aborting differently-abled Down syndrome kids? Surely death is infinitely worse than erasure.

In an article in the London tabloid Metro, Heidi Crowther wrote: “When mum told me about the discrimination against babies like me in the womb, I felt like a knife had been put into my heart. It made me feel less valued than other people.”

Why aren’t we listening to her? Remember: a basic social truth is that if Down Syndrome people have no right to exist, then neither do you or I.


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