Challenging Lawful Discrimination image

Challenging Lawful Discrimination


For those who care about protecting young lives, there have been a couple of disappointing court rulings recently. But even when the final outcomes aren’t what might be hoped, such court cases do at least raise the profile of the topics being considered in the cases.

This has certainly been one of the outcomes of the recent High Court challenge to the UK’s abortion law. The case argued that the current law is unlawfully discriminatory since it allows abortion up to birth for babies diagnosed with Down’s syndrome, while most babies can only be aborted up until the 24th week of pregnancy.

The campaigners who brought the case have rightly spotted that the moral logic behind such a law deems the lives of those with Down’s syndrome to be of less worth than the lives of others since the lives of those with Down’s syndrome are not afforded the same level of protection. By allowing such a distinction about lives in the womb, we, as a society, unavoidably make a statement about the worth of similar lives outside of the womb.

The group who brought the case have done a good job of explaining their position in the media. One of my favourite interviews is below. Máire Lea-Wilson, one of those who brought the case to court and mother of Aidan, a 2-year-old with Down’s syndrome, does a great job of explaining why the law is discriminatory. It’s moving to hear her talk of how she was so strongly encouraged to abort Aidan, how he was born at an age when he could legally have been aborted, and how the law seems to place different levels of value on the lives of her two sons – one who has Down’s and one who doesn’t.

Máire does a great job, but the real star of the show is Aidan. (Have a watch and you’ll see what I mean.)

On this occasion, the court ruled that the Abortion Act does not unlawfully discriminate against people with Down’s syndrome. There is still a battle to be fought, both to protect babies in the womb and to affirm the full dignity and right to life of men and women who live alongside us day-by-day. The verdict is likely to be appealed. May we come to see that lives like those of Aidan are as valuable and as worthy of protection as any other. May we see that such discrimination should not be lawful.


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