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In England, Wales and Scotland, there is a 24-week time limit on having an abortion.
But 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’s syndrome.
Heidi Crowter, 26, from Coventry, was one of three claimants who brought legal action legal action against the Department of Health and Social Care in the hope of removing a section of the Abortion Act they believe to be an “instance of inequality”.
Lawyers representing Crowter argued the law is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, and therefore unlawfully discriminatory.
But, in a ruling on Thursday, their case was dismissed by two senior judges, who concluded the legislation is not unlawful and aims to strike a balance between the rights of the unborn child and of women.
Speaking out following the ruling, Crowter said: “I am really upset not to win but the fight is not over.
“The judges might not think it discriminates against me, the government might not think it discriminates against me, but I am telling you that I do feel discriminated against… and the verdict doesn’t change how I and thousands in the Down’s syndrome community feel.”
She continued: “We face discrimination every day in schools, in the workplace and in society.
“And now, thanks to this verdict, the judges have upheld discrimination in the womb too.
“This is a very sad day but I will keep fighting.
“Thank you to my amazing friend (solicitor) Paul Conrathe and his team for their work on this case.
“Thank you to my mum and James for supporting me and for all in the Down’s Syndrome community who have supported me and Aidan.
“I am not giving up.”
Crowter received huge support for on Twitter for continuing to fight her cause.
The Portsmouth Down’s Syndrome Association wrote: “A dark day for people with Down’s Syndrome and learning disabilities as the High Court rules against any change.
“A positive result could have meant an opportunity for a giant leap for equality for people with DS. Instead, we’ve been dragged back to the dark age.
“Shame on those who upheld this outdated law and missed this vital opportunity to correct a gross injustice that stigmatises and dehumanises so many people.”
Another person told Heidi: “My sister was advised she could abort my nephew as they suspected he would have Downs. She refused and gave birth to a healthy young boy who is now seven and we could not live without him.
“We need to protect the disabled in the womb - they are people just like us and probably more amazing!”
"Keep fighting Heidi, I had no idea that abortion was still legal up until birth,” said a third person. ”It is sickening. You've got this!”
Lynn Murray, spokesperson for campaign group Don’t Screen Us Out and mother of Rachel, who has Down’s syndrome, said: “It’s inspiring to see that Heidi and Maire are now planning on taking this case to the Court of Appeal.”
She added: “The provision in the Abortion Act harks back to a time when we thought it was better for people with disabilities not to be part of our society.
“We’re a far more progressive society now, we realise that diversity is healthy, and all of our laws should reflect that.”
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