Over 40 disability groups call on Amazon to take action over discriminatory t-shirts

Amazon is under-fire from Down’s syndrome and learning-disability groups for selling offensive products that incite hate speech against those with a disability.

It comes after the discovery that Amazon was selling t-shirts bearing hateful slogans, such as “Let’s make Down syndrome extinct!” and “F*ck Down syndrome”, for the second time this year.

Now, over forty groups have signed an open letter calling on the online retailer to take steps to do more to tighten up their policies and permanently end the sale of hateful products on their platform.

The letter, signed by groups including the Down’s Syndrome Association, Mencap, and Positive About Down’s Syndrome, urges Amazon to work with them in “helping the Down’s syndrome community stand against hate crime.”

Tens of thousands of people supporting disability community

A petition organised by the founder of one of the letter’s signatories, Diff-Ability Cumbrian Community group asking Amazon to ban any sellers who “incite hate speech against any minorities” has already been signed by over 64,000 people.

Cristina 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 But we were so scared before he was born because we believed outdated stereotypes.”

Since then, the petition has received the attention of national media with coverage on TV, radio and in newspapers.

Heidi Carter, a prolific disability activist who is challenging the UK’s abortion law, revealed to BBC News how upsetting it was for her when she first saw the offensive clothing, saying: “I would say that I feel very offended and very upset, and when I first found out, I was nearly crying my eyes out.”

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‘Nasty’

Lynn Murray of Don’t Screen Us Out, one of the letter’s signatories, said: “Our supporters, people with Down’s syndrome and their families, have been offended by the ongoing availability of t-shirts calling for people with Down’s syndrome effectively to be screened-out of society.

“Nevertheless, we’ve been blown away by the support from the public and the media.

“My own daughter Rachel calls these t-shirts ‘nasty’.

“We understand that not everyone realises that people with Down’s syndrome and their families are happy with their lives. This community is trying to shake off an old stereotype that Down’s syndrome screening programmes have failed to tackle.

“If Amazon were to change their discrimination policy to include protection for people with disabilities this would go some way to help improve the profile of this minority group. We are also calling on Amazon to make a guarantee to our community that they will ensure that they will never sell any product in the future that discriminates against our community.”

‘Hatewear’

Actress Sally Phillips, whose oldest child, Olly, has Down’s syndrome criticised Amazon for selling “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.”

Woman with Down’s syndrome criticises Amazon over offensive clothing

Heidi Carter, who has Down’s syndrome and is challenging the UK’s discriminatory abortion law, has spoken out against that clothes sold on Amazon with hateful slogans against the condition are offensive make her feel upset.

It comes after the online giant was caught listing and selling t-shirts that say “Let’s make Down’s syndrome extinct!”, for the second time this in one year.

Speaking to Victoria Derbyshire on the BBC, Heidi revealed how upsetting it was for her when she first saw the offensive clothing.

The recently married 25-year-old said: “I don’t like people saying mean things about me… Also the reason why it’s very offensive is because it hurts my husband as well. I love my husband, so much!”

‘Hate speech’

Heidi’s mother Liz Crowter, who was also interviewed by the BBC said that Down’s syndrome is just one extra chromosome and not something that needs to be eradicated.

She said the t-shirts were “hate speech against people with Down’s syndrome.

Giving an example of one of the t-shirts Liz said: “There’s another one where it’s a take on an Amazon review site where it says: ‘Down’s syndrome, very bad’ and then five stars. Obviously, only the one star is coloured in. So, they’re saying people with Down’s syndrome are only one star, which, obviously, again is hate speech and deeply upsetting and offensive.”

The Coventry-based mother said she was fed up with Amazon for allowing the offensive clothing back on the website and criticised them for not protecting disability in its policy on hate speech while protecting most other characteristics.

40,000 sign petition against ‘hatewear’

Over 40,000 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.”

Heidi’s landmark case

Earlier this year, Heidi launched a landmark case against the UK Government over current abortion legislation that singles out babies with disabilities, allowing abortion right through to birth for conditions including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot.

Heidi’s legal challenge has generated widespread support from those with first-hand experience of Down’s syndrome, pro-life campaigners, disability advocates and more.

Over 5,000,000 people have watched Heidi tell Channel 5 the current law is “deeply offensive” and many more have seen her tell the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme that the current law makes her feel “unloved and unwanted”.

#ImWithHeidi

Heidi’s campaign has been shared tens of thousands of times on social media, with people adding #ImWithHeidi to their posts.

She has now been joined in her legal fight against discriminatory disability-selective abortion by Máire Lea-Wilson, whose one-year-old son, Aidan, has Down’s syndrome.

Máire said she was encouraged in hospital to abort Aidan when a scan at 34-weeks revealed he had the condition.

Recalling her experience, she told Sky News: “I felt like the assumption was that we would abort our baby.”

The mother of two added: “I have two sons and I love and value them equally and I think it seems really wrong that the law doesn’t value them equally.”

New prenatal testing has resulted in increased abortion numbers

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 prompted Down’s syndrome advocates to ask 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.

However, their pleas appear to have fallen on deaf ears, as the Government recently 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.

Additionally, 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.

Down’s syndrome births at an all-time low in Denmark

The number of babies born with Down’s syndrome in Denmark has reached a record low, with prenatal screening tests likely resulting in more babies with the condition being aborted.

According to the Copenhagen Post, statistics from the Danish Central Cytogenetic Registry (DCCR) show that just 18 babies with Down’s syndrome were born in the country in 2019.

The decline in births began in 2004, when the Danish National Board of Health issued new guidelines recommending all pregnant women undergo prenatal screening.

Prior to the update in guidance, over 50 babies were born with the condition every year from 2000 and 2004.

Just one year later in 2005, only 31 babies were born with the condition.

The number has continued to fall, and in 2018, the year before last year’s record low, just 22 babies were born with Down’s syndrome.

Figures from the DCCR reveal that in 2014 an average of 98% of babies diagnosed with Down’s syndrome before birth are aborted each year.

New prenatal testing has resuled in increased abortion

The use of prenatal screening tests has resulted in the abortion of Down’s syndrome babies 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 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.”

Parents under pressure to terminate pregnancies

A recent report revealed that pregnant mothers who refuse to abort their children with Down’s syndrome are being pressured by some medical professionals to change their decision.

One mother, whose child is now three-years-old, said medical professionals told her they could leave her baby with Down’s syndrome to die if it was struggling after birth.

Another mum told how even at 38 weeks pregnant she was being offered an abortion.

Currently, abortion for disabilities including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot is legal right through to birth in England, Wales and Scotland, and 90% of babies with Down’s syndrome identified in the womb are aborted.

Landmark case

Earlier this year, disability rights campaigner Heidi Crowter launched a landmark case against the UK Government over current abortion legislation that singles out babies with disabilities, allowing abortion right through to birth for conditions including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot.

Heidi’s legal challenge has generated widespread support from those with first-hand experience of Down’s syndrome, pro-life campaigners, disability advocates and more.

Over 5,000,000 people have watched Heidi tell Channel 5 the current law is “deeply offensive” and many more have seen her tell the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme that the current law makes her feel “unloved and unwanted”.

Down’s syndrome abortions likely to increase after UK Govt announce rollout of new scheme

UK Government Down's syndrome screening programme NIPT

The UK Government has announced that it will be proceeding with the procurement and rollout of a nationwide testing scheme for Down’s syndrome which will likely lead to an increase of babies with Down’s syndrome being aborted.

An investigation by the Sunday Times published earlier this year show that the number of babies born with Down’s syndrome has dropped by 30% in NHS hospitals that have introduced 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 birthrate for babies with Down’s syndrome from 1 in 956 births in 2013 to 1 in 1,368 in 2017.

Down’s syndrome advocates have 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 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 Down’s syndrome. 

Collete Lloyd, whose daughter Katie, 22, has Down’s syndrome obtained the figures. She told The Times that she would struggle to explain to her daughter how the tests could be justified, saying:

“How would I tell her, ‘We have a test so that women can make a choice of whether they want to keep a baby like you or not’? It is not a pro-choice or pro-life thing at all. It is the woman saying: ‘I want a baby but I don’t want a baby like that.’”

Only four babies were born in Oxfordshire this year with the condition compared with 12 in 2015.

A study by the National Institute for Health and Research projected that the proposed implementation will result in more babies with Down’s syndrome being identified each year and based on the current 90% of parents with a diagnosis that seek an abortion, this is projected to result in more abortion where babies have Down’s syndrome.

Lynn Murray, spokesperson for the Don’t Screen Us Out campaign said: “As a mother of a daughter who has Down’s syndrome, I see every day the unique value she brings to our family and the positive impact she has on others around her.

“Figures released earlier this year show that the fears of the Down’s syndrome community that rolling out these tests would lead to a large drop in the number of babies with Down’s syndrome were not unfounded.

“While the screening itself is being heralded as a move to reduce the number of miscarriages associated with invasive amniocentesis, figures published in the Sunday Times last December revealed that the number of babies born with Down’s syndrome fell by 30% in NHS hospitals that have already introduced the new test. When this test is rolled out across the country, we can expect to see this situation replicated elsewhere. Such outcomes are likely to have a profoundly negative impact on the Down’s syndrome community.”

“We are calling on the Government to halt the further roll-out of the tests on the NHS immediately and to undertake an urgent inquiry into the impact that these tests are having on birth numbers of babies with Down’s syndrome.” 

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 the UK. 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. There is clear evidence this is the case, so it’s time that the Government pulled the rollout.

Follows Government decision to introduce abortion up to birth for Down’s syndrome to Northern Ireland

Last year, in the absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Assembly, politicians in Westminster voted to impose an abortion regime on the province.

The Government was not required to introduce abortion for cleft lip, or other disabilities such as Down’s syndrome, to Northern Ireland.

Yet, to the dismay of disability advocacy groups, those with disabilities and their families, the Conservative Government introduced disability-selective abortion right up to birth.

In a letter to the Belfast Telegraph, the 24-year-old disability campaigner Heidi Crowter said: “Boris Johnson’s Government did not have to introduce abortion for babies with Down’s syndrome up to birth to Northern Ireland. They chose to do this.

“That’s both hurtful and offensive. My life has as much value as anyone else’s. 

She added: “Do not make the mistake which was made in Great Britain in allowing discrimination against people like me just because we happen to have Down’s syndrome.

‘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.”

Parents under pressure to terminate pregnancies

A recent report revealed that pregnant mothers who refuse to abort their children with Down’s syndrome are being pressured by some medical professionals to change their decision.

One mother, whose child is now three-years-old, said medical professionals told her they could leave her baby with Down’s syndrome to die if it was struggling after birth.

Another mum told how even at 38 weeks pregnant she was being offered an abortion. Currently, abortion for disabilities including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot is legal right through to birth in England, Wales and Scotland, and 90% of babies with Down’s syndrome identified in the womb are aborted.

Landmark case

Earlier this year, disability rights campaigner Heidi Crowter launched a landmark case against the UK Government over current abortion legislation that singles out babies with disabilities, allowing abortion right through to birth for conditions including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot.

Heidi’s legal challenge has generated widespread support from those with first-hand experience of Down’s syndrome, pro-life campaigners, disability advocates and more.

Over 5,000,000 people have watched Heidi tell Channel 5 the current law is “deeply offensive” and many more have seen her tell the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme that the current law makes her feel “unloved and unwanted”.