07 October 2021, The Tablet

Down’s syndrome and disability discrimination

Down’s syndrome and disability discrimination

Jonathan Barraclough flanked by his parents.


An unborn child with Down’s syndrome may lawfully be killed in the womb up to the time of birth. Last week, we heard the anguished voices of adults with Down’s syndrome speak out in protest at a law which deems them expendable

What a year it’s been for people with Down’s syndrome. Heidi Crowter, a young woman with Down’s syndrome, has risen to prominence as a powerful and eloquent campaigner. And actor Tommy Jessop, who also has the condition, was awarded a doctorate honoris causa by the University of Winchester following his performance in the BBC hit series Line of Duty.

But it hasn’t all been good news. Earlier in the year, Richard Dawkins reiterated on live radio his claim that knowingly bringing a child into the world with this chromosomal abnormality is immoral. And last week Crowter lost her High Court challenge to the Government over a law that allows abortion up to birth for a foetus with Down’s syndrome.

The nuanced decision of the High Court judges, who deferred responsibility for a law which Crowter argues discriminates against people with Down’s syndrome back to parliament, may differ in tone from the rhetorical bombast of the Oxford biologist. But both reinforce the belief that a disability such as Down’s syndrome generates a higher quantum of suffering than a family or individual may reasonably be expected to bear.

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