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Court grants permission to appeal over late-term abortion law

11 March 2022

Heidi Crowter (centre) and supporters outside the Court of Appeal, on Wednesday

Heidi Crowter (centre) and supporters outside the Court of Appeal, on Wednesday

THE Court of Appeal has agreed to hear a challenge to the law allowing late-term abortion in cases in which the child will be born with a disability.

The case, which is being brought by Heidi Crowter and Máire Lea-Wilson, had previously been rejected in the High Court (News, 24 September 2021).

The law currently allows termination after the general 24-week limit, and up to the point of birth, if the child will be born with a disability, including Down’s syndrome.

Ms Crowter, who has Down’s syndrome, said: “People shouldn’t be treated differently because of their disabilities; it’s downright discrimination.”

Ms Lea-Wilson’s son Aidan, now aged two, was revealed to have Down’s syndrome at her 34-week scan. “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.

At a hearing on Tuesday, the court granted permission to appeal on the limited grounds that the High Court did not consider sufficiently the argument that the current law interferes with the right to freedom from discrimination, and the right to family and private life.

Lord Justice Peter Jackson ruled: “Even if the appeal is likely to fail for other reasons, this is an area where clarity is important, and the applicants and others in their position are entitled to know where the law stands on the question of their rights.”

The court did not give leave to appeal on the grounds that the law on abortion infringed the rights of the unborn child. This, the court said, was a matter for lawmakers to decide.

In September, when the case was rejected by the High Court, the Church of England’s national adviser on medical ethics, health, and social-care policy, the Revd Dr Brendan McCarthy, said that the law was “innately discriminatory and unjustified”, and called for Parliament to address the issue.

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