"I think it is very much directed towards eliminating Down Syndrome": debate on screening in Wales

Wales has become the first part of the UK to introduce a new technique for screening unborn babies for Down’s syndrome on the NHS. Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT), a type of blood test, is claimed to be 99 per cent accurate in diagnosing the condition.

Critics have repeatedly argued that it is likely to lead to more abortions, and even to Down’s children being eradicated altogether.

Campaign group Don’t Screen Us Out warned that this move “will have a profoundly negative impact on the community of people with Down’s syndrome” in Wales.

When the Welsh Government confirmed last year that it would become the first part of the UK to introduce non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) within its antenatal screening programme, it did so without consulting people with Down's syndrome and their families, or considering what impact it could have on their communities.

Now, the Government is having to tackle accusations that it is trying to eliminate people with the condition from society.

"They want to make part of the human race extinct"

Mothers interviewed by ITV Wales, questioned the thinking behind the test and said they feared that the test will lead to more babies with Down's syndrome being aborted. Their views is in line with that of  Don't Screen Us Out Campaign, which achieved a high media profile when the issue was being debated in England.

Tanika Bartlett-Smith, mother of Leo, says there's more to NIPT than simply offering parents the choice of a "safer" test. "Choice is good, what frightens me a lot is that this isn’t a choice being offered to be people with information on how well children with Down syndrome develop, the normal life they live," she said. "This choice I think it is very much directed towards eliminating Down Syndrome, it’s almost like they want to make part of the human race extinct."

Kate Harris, whose twelve-year-son has Down’s syndrome, said that women are currently advised to seek advice from doctors who favour abortion for those with the condition.

She went on to discuss the importance of parents getting an informed opinion from those who have a child with Down’s syndrome.

Disability abortions

NIPT will be made available on the NHS in England later this year.

Currently it is legal in Great Britain to abort unborn children up to 24 weeks, or up to birth if doctors believe the baby will be born with a disability.

Figures show 92 per cent of babies who are diagnosed with Down’s syndrome in the womb are already being aborted in England and Wales.

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