Press release for immediate release
693 abortions in 2020 where baby had Down’s Syndrome – number likely to get worse
The most recent abortion statistics releasedby the Department of Health and Social Care today show 693 abortions where a baby had Down’s syndrome in 2020, an increase of 6% from 2019.
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 under-reporting on 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. Some 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 numbers 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 Don’t Screen Us Out campaign, a coalition of Down’s syndrome advocacy groups, are urging Matt Hancock to halt the implementation of the new test until there has been full consultation with the community of people with Down’s syndrome and medical reforms have been introduced which address the unresolved ethical issues of screening.
Heidi Crowter, a 25-year-old woman from Coventry who has Down’s syndrome, has joined forces with Máire Lea-Wilson from Brentford, West London, whose two year old son Aidan has Down’s syndrome, and have launched a landmark case against the UK Government over the current discriminatory abortion law which allows abortion up to birth for Down’s syndrome. The case will be heard in the High Court on July 6th.
Paul Givan MLA has introduced a Bill to the Northern Ireland Assembly intending to remove the discriminatory abortion clause which allows babies with Down’s syndrome to be aborted up to birth.
Lynn Murray, spokesperson for the Don’t Screen Us Out campaign said:
“As a mother of a 21-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 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 interviews, contact Don’t Screen Us Out spokesperson Lynn Murray on 0784 0966 736 or email email@example.com
The abortion statistics report from the Department of Health and Social Care for England and Wales for 2020 are available here.