Human Rights

Fears of lethal discrimination mount as UK promotes increased prenatal Down syndrome screening

Down syndrome

The United Kingdom announced plans to move forward with increased prenatal screening for conditions including Down syndrome. The program, which involves non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT), offers screening for genetic abnormalities early in pregnancy using a blood sample from the mother rather than the more risky amniocentesis. NIPT is used for screening only and is non-diagnostic, meaning it cannot be used to determine if the child, in fact, has a genetic condition such as Down syndrome.

In the UK, abortion for a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome is legal at any point in pregnancy. This means babies can be aborted at any point up to birth for no other reason than the diagnosis of Down syndrome.

 

Right to Life UK and other pro-life and Down syndrome advocacy organizations are warning that the increased testing will likely result in a large increase in the number of abortions for preborn babies with Down syndrome. Recent investigations by news outlets confirmed the likelihood of an increase in eugenic abortions following the screening rollout. The London Times found through hospital data that with NIPT, there was a 30% increase in abortions of babies with Down syndrome.

READ: Be Not Afraid offers hope to families facing poor prenatal diagnoses: ‘You are not alone’

Heidi Crowter, a young woman in the UK who has Down syndrome, has spoken out against this blatant and lethal discrimination. Crowter and Maire Lea-Wilson have sued the government over what they see as discrimination against people with Down syndrome in allowing eugenic abortions like these. Wilson, the mother of a child with Down syndrome, has shared her story of being pressured to abort her child in the third trimester.

Collete Lloyd, whose daughter Katie, 22, has Down syndrome, told the Times how challenging it is to affirm her daughter while babies are aborted for having the same condition she has. She asked, “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.’”

Pro-life groups and Down syndrome advocates like Crowter, Wilson, and Lloyd have asked the government to evaluate the effects on people with Down syndrome before proceeding with the rollout.

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