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Woman with Down's syndrome urges MLAs to reject abortion law in Northern Ireland


Heidi Crowter

Heidi Crowter


Heidi Crowter

A young woman with Down's syndrome has urged Stormont politicians to block Westminster's abortion law reform plans for Northern Ireland.

Heidi Crowter (24), a well-known advocate for people with the condition, has written an open letter to MLAs asking them to reject what she describes as "discriminatory abortion legislation from Westminster".

New abortion laws were passed at Westminster while Stormont was in abeyance last year. Regulations giving the new laws effect were introduced in March, and will be considered at Westminster later this month.

They provide for terminations on request here for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and up to 24 weeks where there is a risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or girl.

Abortion will also be available in cases of severe and fatal foetal anomalies with no gestational limit, as well as for conditions such as Down's syndrome.

Ms Crowter, who is due to be married next month, has asked MLAs to back a motion to be debated at Stormont tomorrow.

In her letter she said: "As a person who has Down's syndrome, I find this proposal for Northern Ireland deeply hurtful and offensive.

"It tells me that I am not equal to other people, not worthy of the same level of legal protection as someone who does not have Down's syndrome or a similar non-fatal disability.

"I think that the law should say that people with Down's syndrome in Northern Ireland, or another non-fatal disability, are just as precious as people who don't have such a disability - just like it does in the Republic of Ireland. That is why I am now challenging the equivalent law in Great Britain.

"Please vote for this motion so the Northern Ireland Assembly can tell the world that you will not accept a law being passed that seeks to prevent people like me being born."

The motion has been tabled by the DUP's Paul Givan, who claimed there was cross-party support for the motion, which he said would "send a message" to politicians at Westminster that we did not endorse the new abortion rules.

"The Westminster plans have already been rejected by 79% of people in the consultation process carried out in NI, and Tuesday's motion will be an opportunity for the Assembly to express its views on the plans," he said.

"This is a devolved matter, and should be up to the Assembly to reflect what Northern Ireland wants on this sensitive issue."

Belfast Telegraph