Tomorrow, Heidi Crowter, a young woman with Down’s Syndrome, and Maire Lee-Wilson, mother of a young son with Down’s Syndrome, will take the government to court to challenge a law which allows foetuses with Down’s Syndrome to be aborted beyond the usual 24-week limit, right up to full-term. I support them.
This case is not about banning abortion. It is not about imposing further limits on a woman’s right to abortion — the law already limits a woman’s right to abortion to 24-weeks in almost all circumstances. This case is only about challenging a specific instance of inequality in the law.
To view abortion on the grounds of disability solely through the lens of women’s rights is both short-sighted and ableist.
A law which allows a foetus with Down’s Syndrome to be aborted in circumstances where it would be illegal to abort one without Down’s Syndrome is a law which encourages us to view people with DS as undesirable and disposable, as ‘better off dead’. It devalues their lives even before they are born.
The rights of people with Down’s Syndrome ought to be equally as important as the rights of women. And it goes without saying that the rights of women ought to be equally important as the rights of men.
Even in this day-and-age our law-makers, our-policy makers, are mostly men: which is perhaps why we have legal limits on abortion.
A society that truly values women’s rights and truly wants to give all citizens equality would, perhaps, impose no limits on abortion at any stage of pregnancy or for any reason. It would be a matter between a woman and her doctor, and no one else’s business. Then, perhaps, no one would feel the need to demonise Down’s Syndrome and paint an unrealistically bleak picture of it in order to justify the choice to terminate.
But, it seems, there is little public appetite for this, even among women.
A society that truly believes in choice and trusts women to make their own choices would, undoubtedly, offer equality of care and would put in place a pathway of care for women wishing to continue with a pregnancy in which Down’s Syndrome has been identified, equivalent to the one that already exists for those who wish to terminate the pregnancy. Such a society would not presume that all women will, or should, want an abortion. This might be a route to equality in the eyes of society — ‘equality by consent’ so to speak.
At present there is no care pathway in place for those who do not want to terminate, because the medical profession does not believe that it is necessary, so any move to institute one would have to be accompanied by a sea change in attitudes towards Down’s Syndrome amongst the medical professions in order for this to become, not just a viable option for individual women to take, but also a viable route to ‘equality by consent’. Such a change in attitudes would take decades, and longer still to filter down to society in general.
The truth is the establishment, the dominant population, the majority, call it what you will, never willingly give equal rights to those on the margins — they give them only when their hands are forced. The case that Heidi, Maire, and their team are bringing to the High Court does not seek to take away someone else’s rights, but merely to take back a right that should be accorded to people like Heidi and Aidan by default, but which society has been withholding.
Women are not the only people who are entitled to rights.
Women who choose to terminate are not the only women entitled to reproductive rights.
Where was my right to have my choice to continue supported?
More importantly, where is my son’s right to equal protection under the law? His right to equal treatment? His right to be considered of equal value to his brother and sister? His right to a life free of discrimination — discrimination that begins in the womb?
What does the current law say to him?
#HoldHands4Equality #EquallyValued #DownrightDiscrimination #ImWithHeidi #ImWithAidan