Activist with Down’s syndrome says abortion law makes her feel ‘better off dead’

Heidi Crowter presented a petition signed by 18,000 people to Downing Street against the law.

Abortion debate
Abortion debate

A young woman with Down’s syndrome has presented a petition to Number 10 against an abortion law which makes her feel like she would be “better off dead”.

Heidi Crowter, 24, and 18,000 signatories have demanded that MPs do not pass a Bill endorsing regulations that allow the abortion of babies with non-fatal disabilities until the point of birth in Northern Ireland.

Under the regulations, which came into effect in March, abortions are permitted at any time up to birth when there has been a diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality or where the child is likely to suffer severe mental or physical impairment, including Down’s syndrome.

A majority of Stormont Assembly members voted to support a motion rejecting this “imposition” of abortion regulations by Westminster on June 2.

The outcome of the vote has no impact on the law, but the DUP insisted it sent a message to the Government highlighting the need for changes to the regulations.

Abortion law petition
A police officer delivers a petition from Disability rights activist, Heidi Crowter, calling for changes to the new abortion laws in Northern Ireland, to 10 Downing Street (Yui Mok/PA)

Speaking at Downing Street on Tuesday, Ms Crowter said: “I’m asking them (MPs) to respect the vote of Northern Ireland and make sure that it stands, and to allow equality in the womb for every baby.

“I want this to happen because I’m someone who has Down’s Syndrome and I feel that the law makes me upset, it makes me feel like I’m better off dead.

“I think it sends a really negative message. And in the words of a classic song, you are amazing just the way you are.”

Ms Crowter, from Coventry, added: “I think the law which allows abortion up to birth for non-fatal disabilities such as mine is downright discrimination in the womb.”

DUP MP Carla Lockhart, who headed up the petition with Baroness O’Loan, said the Bill is “wrong” both constitutionally and morally.

She said: “The words that ring out in my mind is that it makes Heidi feel like she shouldn’t exist, and that’s just wrong.

“The most basic human right is the right to life and everyone has that right to life.

“If you have a cleft palate, a club foot or Down’s syndrome, you can be aborted. That’s just wrong, so we want to stop that.”

Heidi Crowter
Ms Crowter has urged Stormont to reject the ‘hurtful and offensive’ UK Government abortion laws (Heidi Crowter/PA)

She added: “The people of Northern Ireland do not want these extreme abortion laws imposed upon them.

“They are the most liberal in all of Europe, and it’s important that the Government get the message before the vote tomorrow that MPs recognise that the people of Northern Ireland do not want them.

“Constitutionally it’s wrong from a devolution point of view, so we’re asking them to stop with these laws and listen to the people of Northern Ireland.”

Approximately 40,000 people in the UK have Down’s syndrome, according to the Down’s Syndrome Association, who have also voiced support for Heidi’s petition.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) has voiced support for the Bill, saying the “extremely difficult decisions are best left to a woman.”

The head of external affairs at BPAS, Clare Murphy, said: “Women making these decisions are not casting judgment on Heidi and the value of her life – they are trying to do what is best in the most challenging circumstances many of us could imagine.”

“Rather than being forced into a decision, the current legal framework gives women time to understand the severity of a condition and to come to the right decision for her and her family based on the individual circumstances of herself and her pregnancy,” she added.

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