Press release – Disability rights campaigner addresses NI Assembly in support of disability abortion law change

Mar 11, 2021 | Press releases

Press release for immediate release

Disability rights campaigner addresses NI Assembly in support of disability abortion law change

Disability rights campaigner Heidi Crowter, who herself has Down’s Syndrome, has today appeared before the Health Committee in the Northern Irish Assembly in support of the Severe
Fetal Impairment (Abortion) Bill, which will end the practice of unborn babies with non-fatal disabilities being aborted to term. This is the first time she has had the opportunity to speak
directly to representatives of the Assembly, despite campaigning on the issue for five years.

Paul Givan MLA introduced the Severe Fetal Impairment (Abortion) Bill in conjuncture with the ‘Don’t Screen Us Out Campaign’ on 16th February 2021. Since then it has received a huge level of support with 1,608 people with Down’s Syndrome and their families signing an open letter to the Assembly urging them to vote in favour of the bill. 20,000 members of the general public have also signed the CitizenGO Petition to party leaders.

Heidi Crowter told the committee, “The law in Great Britain, and now sadly the law in Northern Ireland, tells me and other people with Down’s syndrome that we are worth less than those
without disabilities.That is why I want my voice to be heard and the laws to be fairer.”

She continues, “My husband also has Down’s Syndrome and I value him and I think society should too.The law makes me feel very sad it is saying that I, and people like me, may as well
have not been born”.

Lynn Murray, spokesperson for ‘Don’t Screen Us Out’, also appeared before the Health Committee today.

Lynn said, “We applaud the assembly for rejecting the Westminster regulations promoting abortion for non-fatal congenital conditions last year. The Severe Fetal Impairment (Abortion) Bill is important because it will send out a clear message that Northern Ireland promotes equality and consideration for those with Down’s syndrome and a move in this direction will lead the way for other countries to follow.”

The Severe Fetal Impairment (Abortion) Bill will amend Regulation 7(1)(b) of the Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020. On 2 June 2020, a motion was tabled supporting Heidi Crowter’s intervention to end the practice of abortions being carried out to term on the basis of non-fatal disabilities. An overwhelming 75 MLAs voted in favour of this motion over the course of two days.

Paul Given MLA said, “This Bill provides the Assembly with the opportunity to amend the current regulation and to send a clear message to people like Heidi, with a condition like Down’s Syndrome, their families, friends, and wider society, that Northern Ireland will not tolerate disability discrimination and they are equally valued.”

The Committee has taken no formal decision going into the debate of the Bill at its second reading on Monday 15th March.


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