Scrolling through my Twitter feed a couple of days ago I came across a photo that made my day: Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai together in Oxford. I showed the picture to my nine year-old-daughter who cheered loudly; Malala and Greta have inspired both my daughters in various ways.
While Malala and Greta don’t need any further introduction, I’d like to call attention to another young woman whose activism is not very well known, but which is equally important. Her name is Heidi Crowter, she’s 24 years old and she has Down’s Syndrome. This week Heidi went on television to highlight Britain’s discriminatory policies against people with Down’s Syndrome.
Currently in England, Wales and Scotland, there is a general 24-week time limit for abortion, but if the baby has a disability, including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot, abortion is legal right up to birth.
Although The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recently said that the UK should change its abortion law to make sure that people are not singled out because of disabilities such as Down’s, the government blatantly ignored the UN’s recommendation.
And that is why Heidi is taking the government to court. Together with her legal team, she has set up a CrowdJustice crowdfunding page to help raise the initial £20,0000 to start legal proceedings, pay for legal advice and begin the preparation of the case.
The powerful argument that Heidi is making is that her life is no less valuable than that of someone without a disability such as Down’s Syndrome.
Not only is the current law downright barbaric, as Sally Phillips, actress and mother of a son with Down’s points out, it also reinforces negative stereotypes about the value and dignity of people with disabilities.
Despite an abundance of evidence showing that people with Down’s can and do live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives, regardless of their functional skills, the medical profession continues to treat Down’s Syndrome as a suffering-inducing condition that mothers would do best to avoid at all cost.
Diehard ignorance and prejudice prevent us from genuinely appreciating that more often than not people with Down’s Syndrome live happy lives and contribute to the happiness of those around them.
People with Down’s now live longer, healthier lives than ever before, attend mainstream school, learn to read and write. Many adults live independently and hold down jobs and marry.
Some even go further. In 2013, Angela Covadonga Bachiller became Spain’s first city councillor with Down’s syndrome, and the British actress Sarah Gordy has appeared in several acclaimed TV series, including Upstairs Downstairs and Call the Midwife.
But, critics will argue, some people with Down’s Syndrome are more ‘able’ than others, and not everyone will be capable of living independently or hold down a job. Some will also have medical problems associated with Down’s. While that is true, no one’s life, irrespective of how many chromosomes they’re born with, is guaranteed to be happy and fulfilling. It’s a chance we all take. The point is, everyone should have that chance, no matter what.
To find out more about Heidi’s case and to make a contribution, visit: www.crowdjustice.com/case/downrightdiscrimination/