PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
24% increase in abortions where baby had Down’s syndrome, as landmark case against UK Govt to be heard by Court of Appeal
21 June 2022 – The most recent abortion statistics released by the Department of Health and Social Care today show 859 abortions where a baby had Down’s syndrome in 2021, an increase of 23.95% from 2020.
The statistics also show a 71% increase in late-term abortions at 24 weeks gestation or over where the baby had Down’s syndrome, increasing from 14 in 2020 to 24 in 2021.
There was also a 9% increase in the overall number of abortions for babies with disabilities, increasing from 3,083 in 2020 to 3,370 in 2021. The number of late-term abortions at 24 weeks gestation or over where the baby has a disability increased by 20% from 229 to 274.
There was also an increase of 14% in the number of abortions where a baby had a cleft lip and palate, rising from 35 in 2020 to 40 in 2021. The number of late-term abortions at 24 weeks gestation or over where the baby had cleft lip and palate, increased by 100% from 3 to 6.
Under the current law, abortion is allowed up to birth if a baby has a disability including Down’s syndrome.
The actual numbers are probably higher than reported due to underreporting of disability abortion statistics. A 2013 review showed 886 abortions for Down’s syndrome in England and Wales in 2010 but only 482 were reported in abortion statistics from the Department of Health and Social Care. The underreporting was confirmed by a 2014 Department of Health and Social Care review.
The private availability of cfDNA testing (otherwise known as NIPT) is likely already leading to an increase in the numbers of children with Down’s syndrome being screened out by termination. The rolling-out of these tests on the NHS, who were already recommending the private tests to expectant mothers, may also be having an impact on the number of terminations.
An investigation by The Sunday Times found that the number of babies born with Down’s syndrome has fallen by 30% in NHS hospitals that have introduced the new form of screening.
The figures, which were released by 26 hospital trusts in England under freedom of information laws, account for about a fifth of the hospital trusts that offer maternity services. They show that more women who have the new test go on to have abortions.
This situation is set to get worse as the Government’s evaluative implementation of Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing as part of the Fetal Anomaly Screening Programme gets underway.
The Court of Appeal has announced that on 13 July it will be hearing a landmark case against the UK Government over the current discriminatory abortion law that allows abortion up to birth for Down’s syndrome.
Heidi Crowter, a 26-year-old woman from Coventry who has Down’s syndrome, together with Máire Lea-Wilson from Brentford, West London, whose three-year-old son Aidan has Down’s syndrome, is challenging the UK Government over a disability clause in the current law.
Heidi Crowter is a self-advocate who has campaigned for the last five years for equal treatment for those with Down’s syndrome in all areas of life.
Máire Lea-Wilson was placed under pressure to have an abortion when a 34-week scan revealed her son had Down’s syndrome.
Heidi and her team have crowdfunded over £136,000 for the case.
Polling has shown that the majority of people in England, Wales and Scotland feel that disability should not be a grounds for abortion at all, with only one in three people thinking it is acceptable to ban abortion for gender or race but allow it for disability.
Heidi and her legal team have set up a CrowdJustice crowdfunding page to help raise funds for legal proceedings, pay for legal advice and prepare for the case. To find out more and to make a contribution to the next stage of the case visit:www.crowdjustice.com/case/downrightdiscrimination/
Lynn Murray, spokesperson for the Don’t Screen Us Out campaign said:
“As a mother of a 22-year-old daughter who has Down’s syndrome, I see every day the unique value she brings to our family and the positive impact she has on others around her.
It is deeply concerning that despite the leaps that advocacy groups have made in raising awareness in support of people with Down’s syndrome, abortion in the case of Down’s syndrome is still so commonplace and widespread in the UK. In fact, we hear from parents all the time how abortion was repeatedly presented to them in the hospital as an obvious solution following the receipt of the news that their baby had Down’s syndrome.
The Government implementation of NIPT in NHS Hospitals began on 1st June last year and projections show that there will likely be a steep increase in the numbers of children with Down’s syndrome screened out by termination unless there is an immediate intervention.
In England and Wales, around 90% of babies diagnosed with Down’s syndrome are aborted. This raises questions for the Government about the purpose of prenatal screening and a law which encourages this situation to occur.”
- For more information on the Don’t Screen Us Out campaign, see our website www.dontscreenusout.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- For interviews, contact Don’t Screen Us Out spokesperson Lynn Murray on 07840 966 736 or email email@example.com
- The abortion statistics report from the Department of Health and Social Care for England and Wales for 2021 are available here.
- High-resolution photos of Don’t Screen Us Out events which can be used by the media are available here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dontscreenusout/albums
- Heidi’s Facebook page:
- Previous news coverage featuring Heidi Crowter:
- Sky News – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qz0pU7TKqb0
- Victoria Derbyshire Show – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eeNuWj3xhbM
- Channel 5 News – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eeNuWj3xhbM