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Ethics – ‘Don’t screen us out’

March 2016

A ‘Don’t screen us out’ campaign has been launched to protect the rights of unborn babies with Down’s syndrome, after concerns that a new cell-free DNA (cfDNA) screening would lead to more abortions.

The new screening method involves a relatively non-invasive procedure to test for unborn babies with such genetic abnormalities as Down’s syndrome. The UK National Screening Committee has recommended implementation of the new screening procedure on the NHS.

The method scans cfDNA in the mother’s blood, which also had some of the baby’s cfDNA. CfDNA testing can detect the presence of an extra copy of chromosome 21, which is the cause of Down’s syndrome.

However, the campaign claims the new method would see a significant rise in the number of children being aborted. Currently, 90 per cent of babies prenatally diagnosed with Down’s syndrome are aborted.

A campaign statement said, ‘These consequences would have a profound long-term effect on the population of the Down’s syndrome community, and enable a kind of informal eugenics in which certain kinds of disabled people are effectively “screened out” of the population before they are even born’.

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