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Mum of baby with Down's Syndrome joins campaign suing Government over abortion law

The mother of a baby with Down’s Syndrome is suing the Government over an abortion law that allows a termination if a “severe foetal abnormality” is detected.

Máire Lea-Wilson said she felt there was an assumption “that you would want to abort a child with Down’s syndrome” when she was encouraged in hospital to abort her son who is now 11-months-old.

In England, Scotland and Wales, abortions can take place in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. But women can also have an abortion after 24 weeks if there is a severe foetal abnormality.

Ms Lea-Wilson, who can’t imagine life without her son, Aidan, has joined the Downright Discrimination campaign, calling for unborn children with Down’s Syndrome to have “equal rights”.

Speaking about Aidan, the mum-of-two told Sky News: “He’s had some challenges and done so well so we’re just really proud of him.

Máire said she wants her son Aidan to grow up and know that has ‘equal worth’ (Máire Lea-Wilson)

“I have two sons and I love and value them equally and I think it just seems wrong that the law doesn’t value them equally and we want to change that.”

She added: “The first thing they wanted to talk about [in hospital] was whether we wanted to terminate the pregnancy, and I was 34 weeks pregnant at the time, so it was quite a difficult decision to get asked.

“It is really tough to think back on that, I find it really difficult to think that Aidan’s life isn’t seen as valuable as his older brother’s, it makes me worry as to whether he’ll be seen the same or treated the same.

Ms Lea-Wilson with her two sons, Aidan and Tom (Máire Lea-Wilson)

“I also really worry that when he’s older if this law is still in place, how will that make him feel: that he’s not as valuable, that he doesn’t have equal worth?”

Ms Lea-Wilson addressed the Health Secretary in a letter on her blog as she announced she was standing with Heidi Crowter for the campaign.

Heidi, 24, from Coventry has Down’s Syndrome and has shared how the law makes her feel “rejected by society”.

Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said: “Often (women) already have young children that they are trying to look after and care for and the addition of a child that will be profoundly disabled can just push them to the stage where they think that they simply can’t continue the pregnancy,” she said.

Heidi Crowter is campaigning against ‘hurtful and offensive’ British Government abortion laws (PA)

“Often there are financial problems, often it can bring out problems within the relationship… we need to make decisions about pregnancy based on that inner sense of what we can do and our own conscience.

“It’s not a matter of somebody else making the decision for us and so when a woman thinks that ending the pregnancy is the right thing for her and her family, I really strongly believe that should be her decision to make.”

According to Department of Health and Social Care statistics, there were around 200,000 abortions in England and Wales in 2018, with nine out of 10 performed under 13 weeks of pregnancy.

Under the law all abortions must be approved by two doctors, and are permitted up to 24 weeks if it is judged that having the baby would pose a greater risk to the physical or mental health of a woman than if she had an abortion.

In 2018, there were 289 abortions where gestation was 24 weeks or longer.

Down’s syndrome is caused when a child inherits an extra copy of the 21 chromosome from its parents, meaning it has 47 chromosomes instead of the usual 46.

The condition, which can take varying forms, causes learning difficulties and health complications, but people can live active and independent lives.

The fetal abnormality justification for abortions at any gestation, known as “Ground E” saw 3,269 terminations made under it in 2018.

Congenital malformations were the main medical condition for nearly half of these, with Down’s Syndrome the most common chromosomal abnormality, accounting for 618 cases.

A screening for Down’s syndrome is offered from between 10 and 14 weeks of pregnancy, with counselling available to support people to make informed choices if abnormalities are detected.

Legal papers will be lodged with the High Court next week and a judge will then decide if Heidi and Ms Lea-Wilson’s case can proceed to trial.

Source: Evening Standard

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