More Down’s babies as parents refuse abortion

More parents are opting to keep a child found to have Down’s syndrome, with a third explaining that they simply don’t think abortion is right.

The findings come in spite of the widespread use of pre-natal scans to test for Down’s syndrome.

Under Britain’s abortion laws a Down’s baby may be aborted at any time up to the point of birth.

The number of Down’s births had dropped from 717 in 1989 when testing came in to 594 by 2000. However, numbers rose again to 749 Down’s births in 2006.

It is estimated that since 2000, Down’s births have risen by 15 per cent as a proportion of all live births.

In a survey of 1,000 parents with Down’s syndrome children, a third cited religious or pro-life beliefs for keeping their baby in spite of the test results.

Another third felt life had improved for children and adults with Down’s syndrome, with wider social acceptance and educational support.

One respondent said: “I don’t subscribe to the notion of the ‘perfect human being’ and found the idea of selecting one child in preference to another abhorrent.”

In October a new, safer method of testing for Down’s syndrome was announced. It prompted fears that more parents would use the test leading to more abortions.

But now these figures may reflect changing attitudes towards abortion of disabled babies.

Commenting on the findings, The Independent columnist Dominic Lawson, whose daughter has Down’s, said: “There is a greater understanding than there used to be about Down’s syndrome and I think people are a little less scared than they used to be.

“I also think younger generations of parents are much less keen on the idea of abortion for eugenic reasons.

“While people might understand a parent saying they are too young to have a child it’s becoming much less acceptable for mothers who might be having a baby later in life to say ‘I want a child but not this one’.”

Frances and Paul Dine discovered that their unborn baby had Down’s through a twelve week scan. They told the BBC how little thought they gave to the possibility of abortion.

Mrs Dine said: “Things have moved on and babies with Down’s syndrome can have a great quality of life.

“At the back of our minds we did keep alive the possibility that she might not have Down’s syndrome but we knew that we would be able to cope if she did – there’s so much out there for her.

“Schools are integrated and there are even actors with Down’s syndrome.

“There’s a worker at our local supermarket who has Down’s syndrome and we think that it doesn’t need to hold you back.”

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