These days we can read in several media that the British Court of Appeal has rejected an appeal filed by a woman with Down syndrome and a mother of a child who also has it. This confirms British legislation that allows abortion of fetuses with certain health conditions until the moment of birth.
Heidi Crowter, a 27-year-old woman with Down syndrome, and Máire Lea-Wilson, mother of a boy, Aidan, who also has Down syndrome, filed the lawsuit against the Ministry of Health and Social Care. They hoped that a section contemplated in the British Abortion Act would be removed as they understood that it is an example of “inequality”.
In rejecting Crowter’s appeal, the judges conceded that “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”.
After hearing the verdict, Heidi Crowter stated that: “I am very upset that babies with Down’s syndrome can be aborted up to birth. This tells me that I am not valued and of much less value than a person without Down’s syndrome. I am angry that the judges say that my feelings don’t matter. That makes me feel that I am not as valuable as a person without Down’s síndrome”.
Therefore, she does not rule out raising her case to the Supreme Court, the highest judicial instance in the country.
In England, Wales and Scotland, current legislation allows abortion as long as it is done within the first 24 weeks of the gestation period. In addition, abortion is allowed until the moment of birth when there is “substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped”.
Last September, British judges pledged to find a balance between the rights of the unborn and those of women, and this particular case was considered at a court hearing held last July.
Bioethical assessment of the case
The demands of people with Down syndrome who ask their lives to be protected and valued by the law are systematically disregarded. The tragedy of abortion, which is the same for any embryo or fetus regardless of its state of health, is magnified in the case of those affected by this syndrome.
Free abortion is allowed in many countries until a certain moment of pregnancy, which is different according to the legislation of each country. This limit, arbitrary and unjustifiable, establishes that from that moment onwards the mother must provide some justification to end the life of her child, her mere will to terminate her pregnancy not being sufficient.
In Great Britain, the life of those affected by trisomy 21 is not worth the same as that of the rest of the fetuses from week 24, a period in which only sick fetuses can be eliminated, and not healthy ones, unless they put the health of their mothers at risk.
Abortion is punishable equally in all cases, with or without disability. This is evident when hearing people with Down syndrome ask why they can be aborted and others cannot. There is no answer to offer them beyond denouncing the violation of human rights that is hidden behind all forms of abortion and eugenic practice.