The number of babies born with Down syndrome in Denmark has reached a record low, with prenatal screening tests likely resulting in more babies with the condition being aborted.
According to the Copenhagen Post, statistics from the Danish Central Cytogenetic Registry (DCCR) show that just 18 babies with Down syndrome were born in the country in 2019.
The decline in births began in 2004, when the Danish National Board of Health issued new guidelines recommending all pregnant women undergo prenatal screening.
Prior to the update in guidance, over 50 babies were born with the condition every year from 2000 and 2004.
Just one year later in 2005, only 31 babies were born with the condition.
The number has continued to fall, and in 2018, the year before last year’s record low, just 22 babies were born with Down syndrome.
Figures from the DCCR reveal that in 2014 an average of 98% of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome before birth are aborted each year.
New prenatal testing has resulted in increased abortion
The use of prenatal screening tests has resulted in the abortion of Down syndrome babies in the UK and around the world.
Figures published last year show that the number of babies born with Down syndrome in the UK 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 birth rate for babies with Down syndrome from 1 in 956 births in 2013 to 1 in 1,368 in 2017.
As a result, Down syndrome advocates 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 pleas of the Down syndrome community appear to have fallen on deaf ears, however, as 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 the condition.
Additionally, last month, the UK Government announced that it will be proceeding with the procurement and rollout of a nationwide prenatal testing scheme for Down syndrome – something which will likely lead to an increase of babies with the condition being aborted.
‘Screening out’ babies with Down syndrome seen as ‘cash cow’
Earlier this year a spokesperson for a Chinese biotech firm declared “screening out” babies with Down syndrome is a “cash cow” funding the growth of the whole business.
The admission came from a spokesperson for BGI Group – a Chinese genetics conglomerate whose main business is offering non-invasive prenatal tests, primarily used to diagnose Down syndrome.
In a segment from an Aljazeera documentary titled Genesis 2.0, the spokesperson gestures towards a digital map of the world and says: “You can see clearly, especially for Down syndrome, we have nearly two million samples all over the world. This part is, what we call, BGI’s cash cow, making money to support the growth of the whole group.”
Dismissing a query over potential ethical concerns, she coldly adds: “…with the use of our technology, we could avoid the birth of birth defect, like a Down syndrome birth, a Down syndrome child, we can screen them out, we can avoid the birth of them.”
Parents under pressure to terminate pregnancies
A recent report revealed that pregnant mothers who refuse to abort their children with Down syndrome are being pressured by some medical professionals to change their decision.
One mother, whose child is now three-years-old, said medical professionals told her they could leave her baby with Down syndrome to die if it was struggling after birth.
Another mum told how even at 38 weeks pregnant she was being offered an abortion.
Currently, abortion for disabilities including Down syndrome, cleft lip and club foot is legal right through to birth in England, Wales and Scotland, and 90% of babies with Down syndrome identified in the womb are aborted.
Earlier this year, disability rights campaigner Heidi Crowter launched a landmark case against the UK Government over current abortion legislation that singles out babies with disabilities, allowing abortion right through to birth for conditions including Down syndrome, cleft lip and club foot.
Heidi’s legal challenge has generated widespread support from those with first-hand experience of Down syndrome, pro-life campaigners, disability advocates and more. Over 5,000,000 people have watched Heidi tell Channel 5 the current law is “deeply offensive” and many more have seen her tell the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme that the current law makes her feel “unloved and unwanted”.
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