This last week was a disappointing one for those who care about life and human rights. Heidi Crowter has been campaigning to change the law which permits abortion of babies up to term if they are considered severely handicapped. That includes children with Downs Syndrome.
In her own words, Heidi says:
What it says to me is that my life just isn’t as valuable as others, and I don’t think that’s right. I think it’s downright discrimination! Heidi Crowter
The United Nations Committee On The Rights Of The Person agree and have called on the UK to change its law in this area. Sadly it hasn’t so Heidi brought a case in the High Court. On Thursday, the High Court ruled against her but she has bravely committed to keep fighting for justice and equality. The case will now go to Court of Appeal. You can hear Heid speaking here.
Sadly I suspect that it remains an uphill battle though as Heid mentioned in her speech, William Wilberforce faced a similar struggle in his battle against the Slave Trade. What I suspect will count against the fight and make it hard are the following barriers.
- Judicial conservativism so that the courts are reluctant to go against primary legislation.
- The configuring of the debate in terms of feminism and women’s right to choose.
- The horrendous reality that although no-one would admit it in public, those with Downs or other conditions considered as severe disabilities are not regarded by our society as fully human and therefore worthy of rights, worth and dignity.
For those reasons, I believe that the battle needs to be fought on a number of fronts. First of all the battle of ideas needs to be won. This means that we need to keep arguing, teaching and demonstrating that people with severe disabilities and fully human, made in God’s image and worthy of dignity and respect that they are amazing and awesome.
It means that we constantly need to make the case and remind people that when we talk about rights and choice that the baby in the womb is alive, is fully human and therefore that those rights apply to them too.
It means incidentally that men as well as women have to stand up and stop abdicating responsibility. The temptation is to fear the issue being presented as a women’s rights issue and so to step back and let godly women take the fight but that is to surrender to a false narrative. Remember that it was a man, David Steel who introduced the 1967 Abortion Act. Remember that in fact it is men who benefit from being able to abdicate their responsibilities as fathers. Remember that too often the real power in decision making lies with male doctors.
Pastors and preachers have their part to play on the issue of abortion and on the issue of human rights too. I’ve included below these two videos, one from a pastor and one from an evangelist to help you think through how to do this.
Secondly, I suspect that this battle needs to be won in parliament rather than in the courts. It was a backbench private member’s Bill that led to the 1967 Act. If the Government will not act to correct this evil and grievous injustice then we need a modern day Wilberforce to step up and speak for Heidi and others like her.
It may well be that there are Backbench MPs reading this article – I plan to share it with a few politicians. If you are, then I’d encourage you to consider sponsoring a Bill to bring our laws on abortion into line with the various Human Rights treaties that we are party to.
We often encourage Christians to write to their MPS defensively when unjust legislation is debated. However, I think we need to go a step further and proactively begin writing to MPs and peers asking them to act.
I’m saddened by the result but encouraged by Heidi’s courage. Let’s stand with her.