Dutch Health Minister: “Society should accept” screening out of children with Down’s syndrome
10 January 2017
Protesting the introduction of NIPT in Britain. Image: Don't Screen Us Out.
The comments were made as the Netherlands plans to introduce NIPT.
Last week, members of the Dutch opposition party asked Minister of Health Edith Schippers, if she planned to take any measures to prevent the near elimination of babies with Down’s syndrome which has happened in other countries.
The Netherlands is making NIPT (Non Invasive Prenatal Testing), by which a range of chromosomal and genetic variations can be detected by a blood test, available to all pregnant women in 2017. The introduction of the test has led to 100% of babies diagnosed with Down’s syndrome being aborted in Iceland. In Denmark, the number is 98%.
However, Mrs Schippers, who has also championed euthanasia for those who feel they have "completed life" replied "If freedom of choice results in a situation that nearly no children with Down syndrome are being born, society should accept that." She said withholding information from parents about the health of their future children is "undesirable" and that participation in the National population screening program is an individual decision.
Singling out Down syndrome
However, Renate Lindeman of Downpride wrote in the Huffington post:
"While participation in the screening program may be voluntary; Dutch women are not free to choose for which conditions they want to screen their pregnancy. NIPT can potentially detect hundreds of conditions, but a small group of experts have determined Down syndrome to be it’s single primary goal. In fact, if NIPT 'accidentally' detects conditions that fall outside this determined scope of NIPT, these ancillary findings are purposely withheld from parents. So much for 'withholding information from parents'."
Witness of the Brennans
SPUC's Communications Officer Alithea Williams said: "At our 50th Anniversary Conference, we heard from Maria Brennan, who has Down's syndrome, and her family. The witness of people like the Brennans, and other people with Down's syndrome who live full and valuable lives, who love and are loved, brings home the horror of what these screening programmes aim to do. Did Mrs Schippers talk to anyone with Down's syndrome before deciding that there's no place for people like Maria in Dutch society?"
Maria Brennan and her family address the SPUC 50th Anniversary Conference.