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Defending life
from conception to natural death


Sally Phillips' Down's syndrome documentary prompts fierce debate around screening and abortion

7 October 2016

Actress Sally Phillips with Halldora, who is from Iceland- where 100% of babies with Downs are now aborted following the introduction of NIPT. Photo: BBC

Popular actress Sally Phillips' documentary, "A World Without Down's Syndrome" has sparked intense debate, both about Down's syndrome itself and the new NIPT screening test.

The documentary, which aired on BBC2 on 5 October, set out to ask the question "What's so dreadful, to the world, about Down's syndrome?" Many have praised the show, with the Telegraph calling it "a forceful addition to the debate" and many blogs and articles sharing experiences of having children and siblings with the condition have appeared.

However, not all the reaction has been positive. Sarah Ditum, writing in the New Statesman, described it as "profoundly anti-choice", while Hadley Freeman opined in the Guardian that "it is genuinely shocking that BBC2 decided to screen a documentary with such a blatantly anti-choice message." The documentary also brought to light the negative attitudes that many people still hold towards Down's syndrome and disability in general. Katie Hopkins wrote in the Daily Mail that most mothers don't want a disabled child, and talked of mothers "being made prisoners by their disabled children."

"Majority want repeal of the Eighth Amendment" says poll

According to an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll, 55% of Irish voters are in favour of changing the constitution to allow for abortion in "limited circumstances", with a further 19% advocating a British style situation.

18% said that the Eighth amendment, which protects the equal right to life of mother and baby, should not be repealed, and 8% had no opinion.

The poll also revealed that women were more in favour of retaining the Eighth amendmend and were also less likely than men to favour an abortion regime in the British model.

Poland's parliament rejects stricter abortion law

The Polish parliament has voted down a citizens' bill which sought to ban abortion in all circumstances except when the mother’s life was at risk. MPs voted to reject the bill by 352 votes to 58.

The ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) had not sponsored the bill, but many of its MPs had initially voted to back it. The government distanced itself from the proposals after protests across Poland on Monday.

Muted reaction to Channel 4 Dispatches' attack on pavement counsellors

There has been little media reaction to Channel 4's "Undercover: Britain's Abortion Extremists", which attacked British groups who engage in public pro-life witness, such as Abort67, 40 Days for Life, and the Good Counsel Network.

Coverage agreeing with the premise of the programme has been limited to a few short reviews. However, Tom Utley has written in the Daily Mail that watching the show, "complete with wobbly camera shots and fuzzy recordings with might be forgiven for concluding that The Good Counsel Network was an dangerous as a Colombian drug cartel of the Russian mafia." Instead, he says, "it is a group of kind and well-meaning Christians...which seeks to offer women practical support and advice on alternatives to abortion."

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