Abortions of babies with a diagnosis of Down’s syndrome in the womb are likely to increase in number after Public Health England (PHE) stated it would introduce its controversial screening test across the NHS from June 2021.
Despite strong lobbying and campaigning against the screening test, PHE announced that the non-invasive prenatal testing technique called ‘cell-free DNA’ will be available as an additional test in all health boards in England.
Those living with Down’s syndrome and campaigners are concerned that without the right reforms, the introduction of the test could contribute to more children with Down’s syndrome being screened out by termination.
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.
‘The latest figures 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.’
The figures she referred to include a recent investigation by The Sunday Times, which found the number of babies born with Down’s syndrome has fallen by 30 percent in the small number of NHS hospitals that have already introduced the new form of screening.
Last year, The Telegraph also reported, ‘The number of British babies born with Down’s syndrome has halved as more parents opt for a controversial blood test to identify the condition during pregnancy.’
Ms Murray warned the situation would only get worse as the government proceeded with the rollout of the test across England.