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”.

Baby girl with Down’s syndrome, given just 10% chance of survival, celebrates first birthday

A baby girl given just a 5-10% chance of survival is flourishing at home with her parents and celebrated her first birthday yesterday.

Arabella’s parents, Tiffany and Paul Kim, were warned by doctors that it was unlikely their unborn baby would survive birth after a prenatal scan revealed hydrops fetalis – a condition which causes an abnormal build-up of fluid levels in the womb.  

Around the same time, Arabella was given a 98% chance of being born with Down’s syndrome.

Undeterred that the “odds were greatly stacked against [them]”, Tiffany and Paul wanted to give their daughter a chance at life.

The couple immediately began seeing an obstetrician specializing in high-risk pregnancies and monitored baby Arabella by ultrasound every one-two weeks.

With each passing scan, Arabella showed signs of improvement, with fluid build ups around her stomach, lungs and heart shrinking.

Then, a 20 week scan revealed the build-up of fluid was completely gone.

Born at a very healthy 7.1lbs (3.22kg), Arabella had no need for a neonatal intensive care unit and was able to go straight home with her mother and father when she was born on 17 July 2019.

‘Overcome by beauty and overwhelmed with thankfulness’

Kim told Love What Matters: “The moment I first held her in my arms, I was overcome by her beauty and overwhelmed with thankfulness. And my fears concerning Down’s syndrome melted right away. I was just grateful she had come safely and healthily into this world.”

She added: “[Doctors] were able to immediately lay her on my chest instead of rushing her over to get vitals on her like they did with my two other typical kiddos. There was no need for the NICU, no need for supplemental oxygen, and she was able to even latch and breastfeed almost right away.”

Reflecting back on her pregnancy the mother-of-three said: “If only myself back then could have fast-forwarded ahead to the day Arabella was born and to the present. Because then, I would have been able to see there was nothing to be afraid of and that my life would actually be infinitely better because of Arabella being in it,” she said.

Pressured to abort

Last year, it was revealed 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 release of the figures arrived shortly after a report detailed how pregnant mothers were being pressured by some medical professionals to reconsider an abortion, having previously refused one – sometimes on multiple occasions.

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.

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💐My dearest Arabella, How has one year gone by already?! Every day with you is a gift. You were not even supposed to survive. The doctors said you most likely would not even make it to birth, and yet here you are, the very definition of a miracle! I don’t like to imagine the reality that they had predicted, a world without you in it; it hurts way too much. Instead, you are here, and I don’t take that for granted. I have been blessed by a love unlike any other. I have gotten to experience joy personified. And every day I have been graced by the presence of an angel. All because of you. Arabella, my love for you is deeper than any words could ever describe. I love you more than life itself. I thank God constantly that He allowed you to make it into this world and that He chose me to be your mama. Happy first birthday, my beautiful, amazing, and precious baby girl! Know that I will always love you exactly for who you are. Love, Your Mama . 🇰🇷Arabella is wearing a traditional Korean dress, called a hanbok, to honor her Korean heritage. It is customary to wear this on the first birthday and take part in traditional celebration and customs. . As you can see as you scroll through the pics, Arabella was not a huge fan of wearing her dress😂 . . . #downsyndrome#oneyearold#firstbirthday#wouldntchangeathing#loveofmylife#miraclebaby#dohl

A post shared by ARABELLA🌈Down Syndrome🌈Hydrops (@abellamiracle) on

Over 35,000 watch woman with Down’s syndrome marry, ahead of disability abortion challenge

Heidi Crowter, who has Down’s syndrome and is challenging the UK’s discriminatory abortion law, got married last weekend in one of the first post-lockdown weddings to take place since Government restrictions were lifted.

The 25-year-old was able to marry her partner James Carter, 26, at Hillfields Church, Coventry on Saturday 4 July – their original planned date.

However, due to the current guidelines, they had to cut their guest list down from over 220 people to just 30.

As a result, the ceremony was live streamed online, allowing the other 190 guests to watch the couple tie the knot.

The livestream was so popular over 1,000 people were watching at one point, while a recording of the ceremony has been watched by over 35,000 people.

Speaking to ITV News, Heidi proclaimed: “It was the best day of my life.”

And, yesterday morning, James told BBC 5 Live: “I married my best friend.”

Before the wedding on Saturday, Heidi and James had not seen each other in over three months, due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“It was really upsetting that we hadn’t seen each other,” Heidi told the BBC. “It was like being in prison.”

James has now relocated to Coventry, “to spend my life with Heidi”, and the newlyweds are enjoying a “staycation honeymoon”, with their plans to visit Italy on hold.

The couple are planning a “big celebration” next year after having to swap their reception for a meal at the pub.

Heidi’s landmark case

Earlier this year, 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”.

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 has 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.”

Heidi and Máire’s case is being presented by solicitor Paul Conrathe of Sinclairslaw, who has lodged papers at the High Court.

Abortion at all-time high: 209,519 lives lost in 2019

Abortion numbers in England & Wales hit an all-time high of 209,519 abortions in 2019, according to figures released by the Department for Health today.

The total number of abortions for English and Welsh residents was also the highest ever recorded with 207,384 terminations performed in England and Wales in 2019, an overall increase of 6,776 from 200,608 abortions in 2018.

Repeat terminations

In addition to this overall increase, the figures show a rise in the number of repeat abortions from 78,988 in 2018 to 83,624. This means that, in 2019, 40% of all abortions were performed on women who had at least one abortion on a prior occasion.

Last year, it was revealed five teenagers were among hundreds of UK women who have had at least six abortions.

Data released by the Department of Health for England and Wales and NHS Scotland under the Freedom of Information Act also showed 4,389 women, including 23 teenagers, had their fourth termination.

In 2019, the number of abortions for those under the age of 16 was 1337 – an increase of 5.52% from 1267 in 2018. 

‘Twin terminations’

126 ‘selective terminations’ were performed in 2019 (procedures performed where a twin, triplet or more were aborted in the womb).

This number represents a 14% increase in ‘selective terminations’ compared to 2018 and a 75% increase compared to 2011 when there were 72 twin terminations.

Disability-selective terminations

In 2019, there were 3,183 disability-selective abortions. This represents an increase of 53% compared to 2009 when there were 2,085.

656 of the 3,183 disability-selective abortions were for Down’s syndrome. 

Campaign groups such as Don’t Screen Us Out, who have worked to highlight their concerns that new pre-natal screening for Down’s syndrome and the likelihood of this screening to lead to an increase in the numbers of children with Down’s Syndrome who are aborted, have already highlighted the 618 abortions for Down’s syndrome in 2019.

These concerns seem to have been confirmed by recent figures which found that the number of babies born with Down’s syndrome has fallen by 30% in NHS hospitals that have introduced the new form of screening.

The figures, which were released by 26 hospital trusts in England under Freedom of Information laws, account for about a fifth of the hospital trusts that offer maternity services. They show that more women who have the new test go on to have abortions.

Lynn Murray, the spokesperson for Don’t Screen Us Out who has a daughter with Down’s Syndrome said: “As a mother of a 20-year-old 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. 

“It is deeply concerning that despite the leaps that advocacy groups have made in raising awareness in support of people with Down’s syndrome, abortion in the case of Down’s syndrome is still so commonplace and widespread in the UK. In fact, we hear from parents all the time how abortion was repeatedly presented to them in the hospital as an obvious solution following the receipt of the news that their baby had Down’s syndrome.

“This is reflected directly in recent official figures showing that almost 100% of babies found to have Down’s syndrome in Northern Ireland are born. This greatly contrasts with the 90% termination rate for Down’s syndrome from other parts of the UK.”

Abortions for cleft lip and cleft palate continue

The disability-selective abortion figures also show that 17 abortions were performed on babies with a cleft lip or palate, with three of those taking place after 24 weeks. 

It is hoped pregnancy terminations for cleft lip or palate will become a thing of the past, after a cross-party group of MPs launched a Bill seeking to protect babies with these correctable conditions from abortion. 

The Abortion (Cleft lip, cleft palate and club foot protection) Bill, which received its First Reading in the House of Commons on 3 June 2020, seeks to clarify in law that cleft palate, cleft lip, cleft palate and lip, and club foot are not grounds for abortion in the UK. 

Sadly, the figures for cleft lip and palate are likely to be much higher, for example a 2013 review by Eurocat showed 157 babies were aborted with cleft lip and palate in England and Wales between 2006 and 2010. However, the Department of Health & Social Care (DoHSC) has only recorded 14 such abortions.

While there is evidence the DoHSC collects abortion figures where club foot is listed as the principle condition, it does not make these identifiable in its annual abortion statistic publications. Seemingly identifying that such abortions take place, Health Minister Helen Whately has said the figures “could only be obtained at disproportionate cost”.

In response to cleft lip and palate abortion figures, a spokesperson for Right to Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:

“These statistics show that abortions are continuing to happen for correctable conditions such as cleft lip and palate. This shows the urgent need for a law change to clarify that cleft palate, cleft lip, cleft palate and lip, and club foot are not grounds for abortion in the UK.

“People are shocked and horrified when they discover that abortion is permitted up to birth after the diagnosis of cleft lip, cleft palate, and clubfoot as the primary condition, believing it goes against the very fabric of what our country stands for today.  

“As a society, we should be empowering those with disabilities, and take great pride in the positive contribution they make to our country. To do this, we have a moral obligation to quash anything that perpetuates false and negative stereotypes towards those with a disability, and that is why we support the group of cross-party MPs who have brought forward this important Bill to help end disability-discrimination in the womb. 

“Our abortion legislation is badly in need of reform to end this unjust discrimination, and we hope this Bill is successful in helping end this disability-discrimination.”

Private abortion providers increase ‘market share’

As the number of abortions overall have increased, so has the percentage of abortions performed by private abortion providers, who, in 2019, were responsible for 74% of all the abortions in England and Wales. 

Over the past 20 years there has been a 255% increase in the number of abortions performed by private providers, who, in 2019, performed 153,601 terminations – an increase of 110,335 from 1999 when they performed 43,266.

The increase in terminations by private abortion providers, such as Marie Stopes International and BPAS, comes amid a year of significant safety scandals at their clinics across the UK, with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) rating over 60% as “inadequate” or “requires improvement” on safety grounds. 

Last year, BPAS Merseyside became the first abortion clinic to be rated as “requires improvement” since the system was introduced in September 2017.

CQC inspectors found six cases of women who “required urgent medical attention due to complications and were transferred from the service to another healthcare provider,” following ‘treatment’ at the abortion provider. Five of these cases were reported as serious incidents requiring further investigation.

Earlier this year, the UK’s second largest late-term abortion clinic, BPAS Streatham, was also found to be putting women at risk after a surprise inspection found “incompetent staff who had not completed life support training” and faulty equipment.

Despite the safety risks abortion clinics pose to women, as well as unborn babies, it seems abortion clinics haven’t been inspected since the coronavirus lockdown began over three months ago.

Commenting on continued increase in abortions performed by private abortion providers, even amid significant safety concerns, Catherine Robinson said: 

“This increase in abortions comes as private abortion clinics have been accused by the Care Quality Commission of paying staff bonuses for persuading women to undergo abortions. 

“Vulnerable women should not be seen as a revenue opportunity but sadly we know this is not the reality as abortion itself is a multi-million pound industry. Private abortion clinics have a vested monetary interest in increasing the numbers of abortions they perform every year.”

Strong support for change

In response to the publication of the 2019 abortion statistics, Catherine Robinson said: It is a national tragedy that 209,519 lives were lost to abortion in 2019. This is the highest number of abortions ever in England and Wales. Every one of these abortions represents a failure of our society to protect the lives of babies in the womb and a failure to offer full support to women with unplanned pregnancies. 

“Polling shows large majorities of women in the UK support changes to our abortion laws that would have a positive impact on lowering the number of abortions. 70% of women want the current time limit on abortion to be lowered and 91% of women want a ban on sex-selective abortion.

“Proposals from abortion campaigners to remove legal restrictions around abortion and introduce abortion right to birth would likely see these numbers get even worse.

“We are calling on the Government to urgently bring forward sensible new restrictions and increased support for women with unplanned pregnancies. This would ensure we were working together as a society to reduce the tragic number of abortions that happen each year.”