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SPUC slams decision to screen out babies with Down’s syndrome with prenatal test

31 October 2016

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) has condemned the Department of Health's decision to roll out the new Non Invasive Prenatal Test (NIPT), which campaigners say will increase the number of abortions for babies with Down's syndrome, and have a devastating impact on the Down's syndrome community.

The Department of Health made the announcement that it has chosen to roll out NIPT via a comment in a newspaper on Saturday. Ministers have given the go-ahead for the test despite almost 300 medical professionals signing a letter accusing the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of "advocating that women with a prenatal diagnosis of Down's syndrome should end their pregnancy."

Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary, said:

"The decision by the department of health to proceed with a new high-resolution screening programme is deeply disturbing."

"It signals a determination by the department to eliminate people with Down's syndrome and others with disabilities. Why should babies be faced with abortion for being different? Aborting the unborn because they are disabled is an affront to all those with disabilities in society. It sends out the message that people like them are not wanted and will not be tolerated. It shows a cold disregard for the hundreds of families and individuals who live with conditions like Downs. Despite the joy and humanity they bring to the world their lives are counted as worthless.

The courageous and outspoken efforts of the Don't Screen Us Out campaign, giving a voice to those who are different, have evidently been ignored, Mr Tully continued.

"Over the past few years, as the new tests have become available privately, and some NHS hospitals have been referring patients for the tests, the reported number of babies aborted because of suspected disabilities has increased significantly."

Mr Tully concluded: "Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Abortion Act 1967, which has reshaped society - eliminating tens of thousands of disabled children and promoting eugenic attitudes in the health service and more widely.It is time for politicians to re-think this shameful approach.

Notes to Editors

  • The review of abortions for Down’s Syndrome in 2011-2012 exposed very significant failings in reporting abortions for some disabilities, and the rise in reported abortions in the past few years may indicate that this is being corrected, but on the face of it, the statistic indicate a strong increase in aborting Downs babies and others with disabilities over the past 5 years.
  • Don't Screen Us Out Press Release

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