In 2017, 655 babies with Down syndrome were aborted in the United Kingdom, i.e. 218 more than in 2007. This represents a 50% increase over ten years, mainly due to the use of NIPT. NIPT is a test considered 99% reliable and requires only a simple blood test from the mother. Currently, it is only available in private facilities, but from next year, the NHS will offer it to all pregnant women with a risk of Down syndrome greater than 1/150.
According to the association Don’t Screen Us Out, the generalisation of NIPT could lead on average to an additional 92 abortions due to Down syndrome each year, a 13% decrease in the birth rate. This procedure is likely to have a “profoundly negative impact” on the community of people with Down syndrome, especially since 90% of babies with this condition are already aborted.
Lynn Murray, spokesperson for Don’t Screen Us Out and the mother of an 18-year-old girl with Down syndrome, says these figures are “deeply worrying” and points out that there are other solutions as in Northern Ireland. There is a real “culture of acceptance and support for people with disabilities rather than eliminating them”, she explains, adding that “this is directly reflected in recent official numbers showing that nearly 100% of babies with Down syndrome in Northern Ireland were born“. It is “a very different approach” for Down syndrome where selective abortion due to disability or Down syndrome is illegal.