Warning Over Test Plans as Down Syndrome Abortions Rise in Scotland
The Scottish Government has been warned not to make a prenatal test available on the NHS without fully consulting the Down syndrome community. The call comes after people with Down Syndrome, their families and advocacy groups voiced their concern over recently-released abortion statistics for Scotland.
The statistics show that, as well Scottish abortion numbers hitting a 10-year high in 2018, there were 34 abortions for Down syndrome in Scotland in 2018 and, while numbers have fluctuated over the last five years, the 2018 number represents a 48 per cent increase from 23 in 2010.
The Don’t Screen Us Out campaign, a coalition of Down syndrome advocacy groups, said this is likely to be attributed to the private availability of cfDNA testing – otherwise known as NIPT – which has already been predicted to increase the numbers of children with Down syndrome being screened out by abortion.
They warned that this situation is set to get far worse as the Scottish Government intends to move ahead with proposals to implement cfDNA testing into Scotland’s Foetal Anomaly and Down Syndrome Screening Programme next year.
Proponents of the test have glossed over the fact that a National Screening Committee pilot study predicts the new screening will detect 102 more babies with Down syndrome every year in England and Wales. Based on the current 90 per cent of pregnancies that are aborted after the baby is found to have Down syndrome, this would mean an increase of 92 abortions for Down Syndrome annually. That reduction equates to an overall decline of Down Syndrome live births by 13 per cent and would lead to a corresponding reduction in the number of people with the condition.
Lynn Murray, a spokeswoman for the Don’t Screen Us Out campaign said that as a mother of a 19-year-old girl with Down syndrome, she is “deeply concerned” at the huge increase in abortions for Down syndrome in Scotland since 2010 and warned that it would be the “tip of the iceberg” if cfDNA testing is made available on the NHS.
“We are urging the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Jeane Freeman, to delay the implementation of the new test until there has been full consultation with the community of people with Down syndrome and the ethical issues of screening which have been acknowledged by the Scottish Government are resolved by the introduction of medical reforms.”
The Catholic Universe. May 31.