The UK Government has announced that it will be proceeding with the procurement and rollout of a nationwide testing scheme for Down syndrome which will likely lead to an increase of babies with Down syndrome being aborted.
An investigation by the Sunday Times published earlier this year show that the number of babies born with Down syndrome has dropped by 30% in NHS hospitals that have introduced new non-invasive prenatal tests.
The figures, released as a result of a number of Freedom of Information requests, show that among the 26 hospitals that provided the tests, there was a change in the birthrate for babies with Down syndrome from 1 in 956 births in 2013 to 1 in 1,368 in 2017.
Down syndrome advocates have called on the Government to halt the roll-out of the new tests and undertake an inquiry into the impact that the tests are having on the birth numbers of babies with Down syndrome.
The Department of Health has previously admitted that no assessment was made of the impact that the roll-out of the new tests will have on the lives of people with Down syndrome.
Collete Lloyd, whose daughter Katie, 22, has Down syndrome obtained the figures. She told The Times that she would struggle to explain to her daughter how the tests could be justified, saying:
“How would I tell her, ‘We have a test so that women can make a choice of whether they want to keep a baby like you or not’? It is not a pro-choice or pro-life thing at all. It is the woman saying: ‘I want a baby but I don’t want a baby like that.’”
Only four babies were born in Oxfordshire this year with the condition compared with 12 in 2015.
A study by the National Institute for Health and Research projected that the proposed implementation will result in more babies with Down syndrome being identified each year and based on the current 90% of parents with a diagnosis that seek an abortion, this is projected to result in more abortion where babies have Down syndrome.
Lynn Murray, spokesperson for the Don’t Screen Us Out campaign said:
“As a mother of a daughter who has Down syndrome, I see every day the unique value she brings to our family and the positive impact she has on others around her.
“Figures released earlier this year show that the fears of the Down syndrome community that rolling out these tests would lead to a large drop in the number of babies with Down syndrome were not unfounded.
“While the screening itself is being heralded as a move to reduce the number of miscarriages associated with invasive amniocentesis, figures published in the Sunday Times last December revealed that the number of babies born with Down syndrome fell by 30% in NHS hospitals that have already introduced the new test. When this test is rolled out across the country, we can expect to see this situation replicated elsewhere. Such outcomes are likely to have a profoundly negative impact on the Down syndrome community.”
“We are calling on the Government to halt the further roll-out of the tests on the NHS immediately and to undertake an urgent inquiry into the impact that these tests are having on birth numbers of babies with Down syndrome.”
Catherine Robinson, spokesperson for Right To Life UK said:
“Our current law allows babies with Down syndrome to be aborted right through to birth. Already 90% of babies diagnosed in the womb with Down syndrome are aborted in the UK. New non-invasive prenatal tests are likely to lead to even more babies who have Down syndrome being aborted.
“The Government should not be rolling out these tests if there is evidence that they are leading to more babies with Down syndrome being aborted. There is clear evidence this is the case, so it’s time that the Government pulled the rollout.”