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Friday, 14 December 2018

New figures show 50% increase in abortion for Down's syndrome over last 10 years

Written by Jennifer Cockerell

Revised abortion statistics show a 50% increase in abortion for Down's syndrome over the last 10 years - with projections it is set to rise further, a campaign group has warned.

The new figures released by the Department of Health and Social Care show there were 655 abortions for Down's syndrome in 2017, rather than the 632 that was originally reported in June.

This means there has been a 50% increase in abortions for Down's syndrome in the last 10 years, as there were 437 in 2007.

Campaign group Don't Screen Us Out said the rise is likely to be attributed to the private availability of non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT), which has been predicted to increase the numbers of babies with Down's syndrome being screened out by termination.

The beginning of the rollout of these tests on the NHS may also be having an impact on the numbers of terminations.

It warned the situation is set to get far worse as the Government intends to move ahead with proposals to implement the test into the NHS Fetal Anomaly Screening Programme.

A pilot study predicted the new screening will detect 102 more babies with Down's syndrome every year.

Based on the current 90% of pregnancies that are aborted after the baby is found to have Down's syndrome, this would mean an increase of 92 abortions for Down's syndrome annually.

That reduction equates to an overall decline of Down's syndrome live births by 13% and would lead to a corresponding reduction in the number of people with the condition in the UK.

Such an outcome is likely to have a profoundly negative impact on the community of people with Down's Syndrome, the group warned.

The Don't Screen Us Out campaign, made up of a coalition of Down's syndrome advocacy groups, said it is urging Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock to delay the implementation of the new test until there has been full consultation with the community of people with Down's syndrome.

It also wants to see medical reforms introduced which address the unresolved ethical issues of screening.

Campaign spokeswoman Lynn Murray said: "As a mother of an 18-year-old daughter who has Down's syndrome, it is deeply concerning to see that the number of abortions for Down's syndrome has again increased by 50% over the last 10 years.

"Sadly this is the tip of the iceberg - if the Government follows through on proposals to make these tests available on the NHS, their own projections show that there will be a steep increase in the numbers of children with Down's syndrome screened out by termination."

She said that although in England and Wales 90% of babies diagnosed with Down's syndrome are aborted, Northern Ireland currently has a different approach when a baby is found to have Down's syndrome - but there is concern that this may also change.

"Disability-selective abortion for Down's syndrome is illegal and there is a culture of accepting and supporting people with disabilities rather than eliminating them," she added.

"As Lord Shinkwin said in Parliament earlier this year, Northern Ireland is currently the safest place in the UK to be diagnosed with Down's syndrome before birth."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Don't Screen Us Out.