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Actress speaks out after new Down’s syndrome screening test reduces number of births of those with the condition

British actress Sally Phillips has spoken out against prenatal screenings for Down’s syndrome, as figures published last week revealed they lead to more abortions for unborn children with the condition.

The popular actress recalled to The Sunday Times how she received a deluge of almost entirely negative reactions when her son Olly was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome.

Phillips said the moment Olly’s condition was diagnosed, 10 days after his birth, “the doctor said, ‘I’m sorry’ and the midwife cried.”

In 2016, Theresa May’s Conservative government pledged to roll out non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) nationally from 2018, but this is yet to happen.

In England & Wales, government statistics show that where Down’s syndrome has been discovered in the womb over 90% of women choose to abort the child.

Sally said: “It is a sad indictment of society that the things people with Down’s syndrome offer are not valued and are thrown away so easily”.

Figures published last week show that the number of babies born with the condition has dropped by 30% in NHS hospital trusts that offer new non-invasive prenatal tests.

Sally said: “If we were screening for sexuality or race, there would be an enormous outcry.” 

She added that fewer people being born with the condition would mean “less incentive to invest in education, improved healthcare, job opportunities and the specific kind of support that those with Down’s syndrome need”.

Catherine Robinson, spokesperson for Right To Life UK said:

“Our current law allows babies with Down’s syndrome to be aborted right through to birth. Already 90% of babies diagnosed in the womb with Down’s syndrome are aborted in England & Wales. The figures released this week show that new non-invasive prenatal tests are likely to lead to even more babies who have Down’s syndrome being aborted. 

The Government should not be rolling out these tests if there is evidence that they are leading to more babies with Down’s syndrome being aborted. Now there is clear evidence that this is the case, it’s time that the Government pulled the rollout.”

Dear reader,

You may be surprised to learn that our 24-week abortion time limit is out of line with the majority of European Union countries, where the most common time limit for abortion on demand or on broad social grounds is 12 weeks gestation.

The latest guidance from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine enables doctors to intervene to save premature babies from 22 weeks. The latest research indicates that a significant number of babies born at 22 weeks gestation can survive outside the womb, and this number increases with proactive perinatal care.

This leaves a real contradiction in British law. In one room of a hospital, doctors could be working to save a baby born alive at 23 weeks whilst, in another room of that same hospital, a doctor could perform an abortion that would end the life of a baby at the same age.

The majority of the British population support reducing the time limit. Polling has shown that 70% of British women favour a reduction in the time limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks or below.

Please click the button below to sign the petition to the Prime Minister, asking him to do everything in his power to reduce the abortion time limit.