You’re on mute
Date: 26th May 2021
In July Heidi Crowter will be taking her Downright Discrimination Case to the High Court. Heidi is asking the UK Government to change the law that allows babies with Down’s Syndrome to be aborted up to birth. Here our Chief Executive, Eddie McConnell shares his views.
It has become, probably, the term that most defines the virtual world we have all inhabited these past 12-14 months.
When it happens to me, I immediately feel a wee bit embarrassed as I fumble to activate the cursor and locate that microphone symbol that, once enabled, brings me immediately back into a world where I can be heard, once again.
Imagine, however, if no one in that meeting did you the kindness of letting you know that you couldn’t be heard. The value of your contribution and your opportunity to connect with the world would be lost, forever.
I often wonder what babies with a confirmed diagnosis of Down’s syndrome, who can be legally terminated right up to birth, would say if we took them off mute.
I also wonder how many of you might elect to stop reading this blog at this point. Please, I ask you, stay with this – there’s an important story to be told that, admittedly, involves a difficult and uncomfortable truth:
Despite the legal limit for the termination of an unborn child being 24 weeks, the genetic condition that is Down’s Syndrome can be viewed as a ‘life-threatening’ condition that can negate the 24-week limit and means that an unborn child with Down’s syndrome can be terminated right up to the moment of birth. There is nothing life-threatening about a baby with Down’s syndrome, they are universally acknowledged as life-enhancing and life-affirming.
So, while unborn children with Down’s syndrome remain on mute, others must speak out.
This is why I stand shoulder to shoulder with the courageous Heidi Crowter who in July will take on the might of the establishment, the UK Government, in a court case that calls out the discrimination and injustice of unborn children with Down’s Syndrome being terminated after the 24-week limit, just because they have an extra chromosome.
She calls it ‘Downright Discrimination’ and she’s not wrong.
There is a beautiful and compelling simplicity in her argument: having someone with Down’s syndrome in your life is your opportunity to grow deeply in your appreciation of everything that is about love and kindness, compassion and empathy. There is also a chilling nuance to her position: “Please stop telling me that I’m a burden, that I am unlikely to achieve anything, that I would be better off not being born.”
It simply can’t be right that the perceived and suggested inconvenience of a baby diagnosed with Down’s syndrome can be offered as a justification for termination beyond the legal limit of 24 weeks. There is nothing perilous and life-threatening about having an extra chromosome. Yes, there can be challenges ahead, just as there are with all children growing up in a world that doesn’t fully honour their rights and value their contribution. But none of that can justify the downright discrimination that is taking place.
So, I’m with Heidi.
Will you join me please by shining a light on this unacceptable situation, following the court case and spreading the word. If you are able, you can also make a donation to help with the costs of this court case.
And, for the avoidance of doubt, this is not a blog about pro-life and neither is it about a woman’s right to choose. This is about tackling prejudice and discrimination about my friends with an extra chromosome. I am pro Down’s syndrome.
Heidi Crowter initiated a legal challenge against the UK Government over the practice of the 1967 Abortion Act that allows unborn babies with Down’s syndrome to be aborted right up to birth, beyond the 24-week legal limit. The Downright Discrimination Court Case has now been set for the High Court on 6/7 July 2021. You can read more about Heidi and the case here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-57089602 and make a donation to her via Crowd Justice here: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/downrightdiscrimination/
Eddie McConnell is Chief Executive of Down’s Syndrome Scotland and he is the parent of a young man with Down’s syndrome.