Bishops Back Legal Challenge against Down Syndrome Abortion Law


There is a legal challenge connected to abortion and Down syndrome and it is getting support from some bishops in Church of England. Presently, the bishops who have lent their voices are Stephen Cottrell - the Archbishop of York, Christine Hardman – the Bishop of Newcastle, and James Newcome – the Bishop of Carlisle. In their words, persons with disability should be valued, cherished, and respected.

Máire Lea-Wilson and Heidi Carter spearheaded the campaign arguing that the law segregates in handling people with Down’s syndrome. There is a maximum time of 24 weeks to have an abortion in Wales, England, and Scotland.

However, terminations can be allowed 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", which includes Down syndrome.

In a statement, the bishops said, "The Church of England has consistently argued that the law on abortion is discriminatory on two counts. In the first instance, it permits abortions to be carried out solely on the basis of disability; secondly, it removes the twenty-four week time limit for abortions in cases of disability.

"We do not believe that such discrimination, founded on the probability of disability, is justifiable. There is something profoundly disturbing in our current contradictory stance which says that people living with disability are valued, respected and cherished, but that disability in and of itself represents a valid ground for abortion.

"It is right that this should be scrutinised by the Courts and we commend Heidi Crowter and Máire Lea-Wilson for bringing their challenge to the High Court while continuing to recognise that Parliament has within its powers the ability to end this discriminatory practice."

Heidi, 26, from Coventry, believes the law should be changed. For this reason, she is taking legal action against the government. She said,

"People like me are considered to be 'seriously handicapped', but I think using that phrase for a clause in abortion law is so out of date. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recently said that the United Kingdom should change its abortion law to make sure that people like me aren't singled out because of our disabilities, but the Government hasn't changed the law. I hope we win. People shouldn't be treated differently because of their disabilities, it's downright discrimination."

Maire Lea-Wilson, 33, a mother of two sons with one of them with Down syndrome also lent her force to the issue.

"I have two sons that I love and value equally, but the law does not value them equally. This is wrong and so we want to try and change that," she said.

The hearing before Lord Justice Singh and Justice Lieven is expected to conclude on Wednesday afternoon.

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