Changing attitudes to people with Down’s syndrome seem to be encouraging more parents to bring affected babies into the world, a British survey has shown. After the widespread introduction of pre-natal diagnosis of Down’s in the UK in 1989, the number of babies born with the condition each fell from 717 to 594 in the year 2000. Research has shown that as many as 90 per cent of those pre-natally diagnosed were aborted. Since then, the birth rate has increased again, reaching 749 in 2006.

The Down’s Syndrome Association, in conjunction with the BBC, conducted a survey of 1000 of its members to find out why so many were choosing to have Down’s children despite the availability of pre-natal screening. The findings are being aired in a BBC Radio 4 documentary this week. They show that while religious or pro-life beliefs counted in around one third of cases, many parents felt that life and society had improved for people affected by Down’s. Others said their decision was influenced by the fact that they knew people with Down’s or other disabilities.

Carol Boys, chief executive of the Down’s Syndrome Association says the results were very surprising and indicate that parents are “thinking more carefully before opting for pre-natal screening and termination”. Compared to when her own child was born, there was today “much greater inclusion and acceptance, with mainstream education having a huge role”.

One thing not mentioned in this report is the increasing number of women starting their families at older ages, when the risk of Down’s increases. To abort a baby in her late 30s may carry the risk of a woman losing her only chance of a child. ~ Telegraph (UK), Nov 24

 

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet