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Defending life
from conception to natural death


Campaigners fear Down’s syndrome test on the NHS will increase abortions

11 October 2016

The Don't Screen Us Out Rally outside Parliament in April. 

Sky News has reported on fears that non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) will lead to an increase in abortions of babies with Down's syndrome if it is made available on the NHS.

An open letter, signed by people with Down's syndrome and their families, is due to be presented to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt at the Department of Health later today.

The letter states that "...the voice of people with Down's syndrome and their families has been totally ignored by the Government on this issue." It says that implementing the test would "effectively mean introducing a worsened form of informal eugenics into our culture than already exists" and calls on the Government to delay implementation until there is a full ethical review of both NIPT and the Fetal Anomaly Screening Programme.

Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary, said "It is clear that NIPT a cost-cutting measure in the Department of Health. The Fetal Anomaly Screening Programme is a eugenic exercise to screen out 'imperfect' babies. It is an affront to those who are targeted. We believe that the Department of Health should scrap the programme and apologise."

"Three parent" baby method being used for infertility- even though "we don't know enough to ensure its safety"

The New Scientist reports that the first babies to be created using the "three-parent" method to overcome infertility are due to be born in early 2017. This is the first time the technique has been used to treat infertility, rather than to avoid hereditary disease.

The method was used in the Ukraine to try and prevent "embryo arrest"- when embryos created through IVF suddenly stop growing at the two cell stage. The idea is that using the egg of a donor woman would avoid whatever caused the embryo to arrest.

However, Dean Betts at Western University in Canada said that the reasons why embryos stop growing are poorly understood, and the method may not prevent it. "I think it's too risky", he said. "More research is needed, and I highly recommend banning the procedure in humans as we don't know enough to ensure its safety."

Embryos created to die

The article also brings out the unethical nature of the three parent method, and of creating embryos generally. It describes how Dr John Zhang at the New Hope fertility Centre in New York produced three "healthy foetuses", but they all died. "One was removed at 33 days, to relieve the pressure of bearing triplets, but the remaining two then died at 24 and 29 weeks respectively, due to rupturing membranes and umbilical cord prolapse."

Northern Ireland abortion report to be unveiled within days, says minister

A working group set up to examine abortion in cases of "fatal foetal abnormalities" is due to report within days, Northern Ireland's Health Minister Michelle O'Neill has said.

The working group was established following a High Court ruling which said that Northern Ireland's ban on abortion in instances of sexual crime or "fatal foetal abnormality" was incompatible with international human rights laws.

Attorney General John Larkin and Stormont's Department of Justice are appealing against that ruling.

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