Human Rights

Royal College of OBGYNs in UK: Don’t pressure parents into abortion after prenatal screenings

Down syndrome, down syndrome abortion ban

New guidelines released by the UK’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG) seek to stop medical professionals from pressuring parents into abortion based on non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT).

NIPT is a non-diagnostic screening test that cannot diagnose or say with certainty whether a preborn baby has a genetic condition such as Down syndrome, but by looking at baby’s cells found in maternal blood can identify when a mother has an elevated chance of having a baby with such a condition. Nearly 90% of babies in the UK prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. 

According to the RCOG directive released December 2nd, parents of preborn babies who have higher risk through NIPT have reported that doctors have subtly or overtly pressured them to abort. Despite expressing their desire to keep their babies, parents “have reported being asked repeatedly if they want further diagnostic tests or an abortion. They report having their decisions challenged and being pressured into changing their minds.”

The new RCOG guidelines are clear: “This should not happen.”

READ: Mom pressured to stop treating son with Down syndrome: ‘Make arrangements for his death’

The directive also emphasizes that the limitations of NIPT should be known by all staff, and that parents who want to know for sure whether their baby has one of the syndromes listed in NIPT results should seek diagnostic testing. “Women and their partners with a higher chance NIPT result who wish to know for sure if their baby has a one [sic] of the conditions can choose to have an amniocentesis or CVS.” 

Right to Life UK points out that bioethics groups have expressed concerns about the accuracy of NIPT being oversold and used to diagnose preborn babies — and likewise, to pressure parents to abort. 

“Women are making life or death decisions influenced by outdated and prejudicial views by many medical professionals. Expectant women are not given accurate information about the reality of life with Down’s syndrome. There is very limited support and an overriding assumption to terminate,” said Nicola Enoch, founder of Positive About Down Syndrome (PADS).

The pressure placed on expectant mothers of children with Down syndrome is not unique to the UK. After Ms. Yami Johnson of New York had a prenatal screening, doctors presented news of her preborn baby’s Down syndrome as a grave matter.

They offered me termination and reminded me I had that option every week until I passed the last date. They even scheduled an appointment to discuss a termination without my consent. I felt like the life of my child was not supported and I felt pressurized to terminate,” Johnson said, according to Live Action News.

In 2020, the number of abortions in the UK are set to reach record levels for the second year in a row, as Live Action News reported, a rise that coincides with the approval of “DIY” at-home abortions introduced in March during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, the number of abortions committed in the UK was the highest recorded in a single calendar year, at 200,608.

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