The sister of a girl with Down’s Syndrome has called on the NHS to reject a new test for the condition, saying it could lead to more abortions.
In an emotional ‘video letter’ Lucy Varley, from Liverpool, said that a world without Down’s Syndrome children “would be a very sad place indeed”.
She said that her sister Sophie is a “happy, independent, talented, just truly wonderful human being”, and that she can say the same for “every other child with Down’s Syndrome” that she’s ever met.
Varley raised concerns about proposals for a new Down’s Syndrome test to be made available on the NHS.
“If this test were to be free, just think of all the terminations that would take place”, she said.
If this test were to be free, just think of all the terminations that would take placeLucy Varley
Last week the UK National Screening Committee recommended that a new ‘non-invasive’ prenatal blood test should be rolled out across the NHS in a bid to “reduce anxiety”.
The Department of Health said it is considering the recommendation.
Currently expectant mothers with a higher likelihood of having a child with Down’s Syndrome are offered an amniocentesis, where a needle is used to extract a sample of amniotic fluid surrounding the baby – one in 200 women miscarry as a result.
The UK National Screening Committee said it is aware that there may be an impact on abortion as a result of the new test being available.
Screening for imperfection
The pro-life charity LIFE is calling on the Government not to introduce the test, saying it will lead to more abortions for Down’s Syndrome.
LIFE’s Director of Education, Anne Scanlan, said: “We must remember that when we say screening, we are screening for something: abnormality, disability and imperfection.”
She added: “Whilst this may prepare some couples for the prospect of raising a child with a disability, we currently live in a society which aborts 90% of children with Down’s Syndrome in the womb.”
Scanlan also pointed to research showing that, based on current figures, the new test will result in a 13 per cent reduction of live births of children with Down’s Syndrome annually.
Columnist Tim Stanley pointed to fears about the condition, which he said are shaped by a popular culture that is “remarkably ignorant” about the realities of Down’s Syndrome.
Writing for The Daily Telegraph online, he said that mothers should be made aware of the option to give birth and raise a child “who can contribute to the world in their own particular way”.
He commented, “quality of life isn’t defined solely by the pain people endure – but how we respond to that pain both as individuals and as a community”.
In this video Karen Gaffney, who has Down’s Syndrome, talks about the huge contribution that people with the condition can make to society.