North East religious leaders back woman with Down's Syndrome's High Court appeal to change abortion law

Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Newcastle Christine Hardman and the Bishop of Carlisle James Newcome.

Northern religious leaders are supporting a High Court appeal which challenges abortion laws.

In a statement the Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Carlisle James Newcome and the Bishop of Newcastle Christine Hardman said our current laws are 'contradictory' and 'profoundly disturbing'.

The statement said: "The Church of England has consistently argued that the law on abortion is discriminatory on two counts.

"In the first instance, it permits abortions to be carried out solely on the basis of disability. Secondly, it removes the 24-week time limit for abortions in cases of disability.

In England, Wales and Scotland, there is a general 24-week time limit to have an abortion. But terminations can be permitted up until birth if there is "a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped", which includes Down's syndrome.

The Archbishop of York and Bishops of Newcastle and Carlisle are have voiced their support for a woman with Down's syndrome, who is heading to the High Court to challenge legislation which allows abortions up to birth for babies with the condition.

Heidi Crowter, 26, from Coventry, is taking legal action against the Government because she believes the law is "downright discrimination".

At a two-day High Court hearing, lawyers representing Ms Crowter and Ms Lea-Wilson will argue that the law as it stands is unlawfully discriminatory. The pair, supported by the campaign group Don't Screen Us Out, are expected to hold a demonstration outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London ahead of the first day of the landmark case on Tuesday.

In a statement before the hearing, Ms Crowter said: "The law says that babies shouldn't be aborted up to birth, but if a baby is found to have Down's syndrome it can be aborted up until birth.

This is the current law in the UK and I think it's not fair." 

Heidi added: "The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recently said that the United Kingdom should change its abortion law to make sure that people like me aren't singled out because of our disabilities, but the Government hasn't changed the law.

Màire Lea-Wilson, 33, an accountant and mother of two from west London whose son Aidan has Down's syndrome, is also bringing the legal challenge, which she hopes will remove "a specific instance of inequality of the law".

Ms Lea-Wilson said: "This is wrong and so we want to try and change that. My motivation for taking this joint legal action with Heidi has always been simple: as a mother, I will do all that I can to ensure the fair and equitable treatment of my son, Aidan.

"This case is not about the rights or wrongs of abortion. It has always been about removing a specific instance of inequality of the law, whereby for a child without a disability the legal limit for abortion is 24 weeks, but you can have an abortion right up to full term with a child that does have a disability.

The hearing before Lord Justice Singh and Mrs Justice Lieven is expected to conclude on Wednesday afternoon.