Actress Sally Philips criticises Amazon for Down’s syndrome extinction t-shirts

Amazon has been condemned by people with Down’s syndrome and their families for selling t-shirts which incite hate speech against the condition.

T-shirts bearing hateful slogans, such as “Let’s make Down syndrome extinct!” and “F*ck Down syndrome”, have been discovered for sale on the online giant’s website for the second time this year.

The t-shirts first appeared on Amazon in March this year, but were removed by the retailer after it received a tsunami of complaints.

‘Hatewear’

Over 19,000 people have now signed a petition calling on Amazon to do more to help the Down’s syndrome community fight against hate crime.

Actress Sally Phillips, whose oldest child, Olly, has the condition, is among the signatories of the Change.org petition.

She criticised Amazon for selling Down’s syndrome “hatewear” t-shirts, telling The Times: “Eugenic ideas are really taking hold — the idea that there is this subclass of humans and it is better we get rid of them. If you have a world view in which you regard academic intelligence or money-making possibilities as the ultimate goal… then you feel perfectly justified in saying these things.”

She added: “It would break my heart if Olly saw anyone wearing those T-shirts.”

‘Outdated stereotypes’

Cristina Bowman, who set up the petition, feared seeing such hateful slogans would have a similar effect on her three-year-old son, Max, who has the condition.

She said: “We’re fighting hard to get positive balanced information out there because so many children are aborted when their parents find out they have Down’s syndrome.

“Max does not have any serious health problems, he’s the loveliest boy. But we were so scared before he was born because we believed outdated stereotypes.”

‘Offensive’

Mother Caroline White, whose son Seb is a model with Down’s syndrome, shared a series of screenshots of the T-shirts on Twitter, writing: “Look at this offensive s*** I, and other parents of kids with Down’s syndrome, have to see. @amazon @AmazonHelp how the hell have these been listed??”

Hate crimes against the disabled up

Research by United Response, the learning disability charity, found there were more than 6,000 reported cases of hate crimes against disabled people in 2018-19, a rise of almost 12 per cent in a year.

New prenatal testing has resuled in increased abortion

The introduction of new prenatal screening tests has been linked to an increase in the number of Down’s syndrome babies aborted in the UK and around the world.

Figures published last year show that the number of babies born with Down’s syndrome in the UK has dropped by 30% in NHS hospitals that have introduced the new non-invasive prenatal tests.

The figures, released as a result of a number of Freedom of Information requests, show that among the 26 hospitals that provided the tests, there was a change in the birth rate for babies with Down’s syndrome from 1 in 956 births in 2013 to 1 in 1,368 in 2017.

As a result, Down’s syndrome advocates called on the Government to halt the roll-out of the new tests and undertake an inquiry into the impact that the tests are having on the birth numbers of babies with Down’s syndrome.

The pleas of the Down’s syndrome community appear to have fallen on deaf ears, however, as the Department of Health has previously admitted that no assessment was made of the impact that the roll-out of the new tests will have on the lives of people with the condition.

Additionally, last month, the UK Government announced that it will be proceeding with the procurement and rollout of a nationwide prenatal testing scheme for Down’s syndrome – something which will likely lead to an increase of babies with the condition being aborted.

‘Screening out’ babies with Down’s syndrome seen as ‘cash cow’

Earlier this year a spokesperson for a Chinese biotech firm declared “screening out” babies with Down’s syndrome is a “cash cow” funding the growth of the whole business.

The admission came from a spokesperson for BGI Group – a Chinese genetics conglomerate whose main business is offering non-invasive prenatal tests, primarily used to diagnose Down’s syndrome. 

In a segment from an Aljazeera documentary titled Genesis 2.0, the spokesperson gestures towards a digital map of the world and says: “You can see clearly, especially for Down’s syndrome, we have nearly two million samples all over the world. This part is, what we call, BGI’s cash cow, making money to support the growth of the whole group.”Dismissing a query over potential ethical concerns, she coldly adds: “…with the use of our technology, we could avoid the birth of birth defect, like a Down’s syndrome birth, a Down’s syndrome child, we can screen them out, we can avoid the birth of them.”

Miracle baby leaves hospital after being born at 23 weeks

Baby Millie Bushell is now at home with her parents following a nearly 15 week stay in hospital after being born at just 23 weeks – 17 weeks prematurely and one week before the legal abortion limit.

Since her premature birth, Millie has been at three different hospitals and had a score of treatments, including a heart operation, treatment for seven infections, and multiple blood transfusions – all during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Tiffany said: “It’s still not her due date but she’s home and she’s 15 weeks old [last] Sunday. It’s just crazy.”

Matthew added: “We’re out of the woods but we had to fight out of the woods.”

An ‘absolute miracle’

Tiffany and Matthew Bushell had dreamed of starting a family since they met 12 years ago. 

However, they quickly ran into fertility issues once they started trying to conceive. 

After four or five years and an IVF treatment, Tiffany became pregnant with their first daughter, Ruby. Just 24 weeks in, however, Tiffany went into labour and Ruby was born weighing just 1lb 5oz.

Tragically, Ruby didn’t survive.

A year later, Tiffany and Matthew  were shocked to learn they were pregnant again, this time without fertility treatments. 

And, when she went into labour at 23 weeks, she felt history was about to repeat itself after losing Ruby just 18 months earlier. 

“The pregnancy was going really well,” Tiffany told The Mirror. “I was obviously being monitored for anything because of what happened last time, and then at 20 weeks I went in for a routine scan and my cervix was open, so I was taken down for surgery to put a stitch in place. Then three weeks later Millie decided she was coming.

“My waters broke at home so we went to Watford, but we had to be transferred to Chertsey in Surrey, as it was safer for her to be delivered in a level three neo-natal unit because she was so premature.”

Millie was born at St Peter’s Hospital, Cherstey at 2.06pm on 26 April. 

Initially, she did not require a ventilator, however, after two days she began to have difficulty breathing and was immediately put on one.

According to her parents, “that was when everything started to happen.” 

During her nearly 15 week stay, Millie had a score of treatments, including a heart operation, treatment for seven infections, and multiple blood transfusions – all during the coronavirus pandemic. 

In addition, she was transferred to different hospitals twice — once for heart surgery at St Thomas’s in London and a second time to move closer to her parents home at Watford General Hospital. 

“She had chest infections from being ventilated, she had the hole in the heart which every baby is born with but they close within the first few hours, but Millie was so premature it didn’t close,” explained Tiffany.

Despite multiple infections, she has continued to grow and feed well and weighed 5lb 4oz when she was allowed to go home with her parents in August.  

Millie still has a long journey ahead of her, according to her father: “She’s on oxygen 24 hours a day but a nurse comes every week, so we’re hoping it’s going to be reduced to 23 hours soon.

“As she grows up we’re always going to tell her how strong and special she is. We must have taken 2,000 photos to show her when she is older. We’ll also tell her about Ruby.

“She’s had a tough start but what doesn’t break you makes you stronger. And we are so happy and very proud to be her parents.”

New guidance

The survival rate for extremely premature babies has doubled over the past decade, prompting the creation of new guidance allowing doctors to try to save babies born as early as 22 weeks into a pregnancy.

In 2008 only two out of ten babies born alive at 23 weeks went on to survive. Today it is four out of ten, according to the British Association of Perinatal Medicine.

Once a baby passes 22 weeks, the chances of survival increase week-by-week due to technical advances, better healthcare planning and the increased use of steroids.

The increased survival rates have prompted calls to review the current law in order to help lower abortion numbers and save the lives of babies.

Time for change

A spokesperson for Right to Life UK Catherine Robinson said: “This is something that Parliament should urgently revisit. It has been over a decade since time limits were last debated fully in Parliament, in 2008.

“There is a real contradiction in British law. In one room of a hospital, doctors could be working to save a baby born alive before 24 weeks whilst in another room a doctor could perform an abortion which would end the life of a baby at the same age. Surely this contradiction needs to end.

“Independent polling from Savanta ComRes shows that 70% of women in the UK want to see the time limit for abortion reduced to 20 weeks or below. Our current abortion time limit is way out of line with the rest of Europe where the most common abortion time limit is 12 weeks.

“This change in guidance adds further evidence to the need for Parliament to urgently review our current abortion time limit. We support any change in law that would help lower abortion numbers and save the lives of babies in the womb. 

“It’s time that our laws were brought into line with public opinion, modern science and the rest of Europe.”