A British mother decided to speak out publicly after watching the medical community discriminate against her unborn son because he has Down syndrome.
Speaking with The Sun, Cheryl Bilsborrow, of Lancashire, England, said prenatal testing is fueling increased discrimination against unborn babies with disabilities.
Parents often feel pressured to consider abortion after a Down syndrome diagnosis. In Bilsborrow’s case, she said she repeatedly was asked if she wanted an abortion, including when she was 38 weeks pregnant.
“Never!” she replied, but they kept asking.
Today, her son Hector is a happy, affectionate 2-year-old. His mother said he loves to sing, and he is beginning to talk.
“He’s got beautiful white hair and blue eyes, and he is always smiling and laughing, blowing kisses and coming for hugs,” Bilsborrow said. “But when I was pregnant I was made to feel like his life would have no value and that I should abort him. Why? Because he has Down’s Syndrome.”
New research from 26 hospitals in England found a 30 percent drop in the number of babies born with Down syndrome since the NIPT prenatal test became widely available. All NHS hospitals are supposed to begin offering the test soon, according to the report.
Bilsborrow described the situation as a “national travesty.”
She said she agreed to have the screening test done “without much thought.” When the results came back, however, they were a huge shock, and the so-called options counseling did not help.
“Each time I went back for my midwife appointments over the pregnancy, they spoke to me about the possibility of abortion,” Bilsborrow said. “There was no offer of counselling, no discussion about how my life might be enhanced by this baby.”
Though she was extremely worried and anxious about her child, she repeatedly refused to abort him.
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Yet, “abort and get rid seemed to be the only answer” that she was given.
“What if the midwife had phoned me and said: ‘Please don’t be alarmed. You’re having a baby with Down’s syndrome. We can offer you some counseling and help you meet a family with a child with Down’s syndrome so you can learn more,’” she said. “Instead, they made out it was the worst news in the world.”
Bilsborrow said families deserve better.
“Now, having had Hector, I know there was nothing to be frightened of,” she said. “But the joys of having a baby with Down’s Syndrome aren’t spoken about when the NIPT test results first come back.
“It spoke volumes to me about the perception of children with Down’s syndrome,” she continued.
In England, abortions are legal up to birth for babies with Down syndrome and other prenatal diagnoses. Bilsborrow believes the expansion of prenatal testing would be “disastrous” for babies like her son because there is so much stigma about people with the disability.
“So given babies like my son can live perfectly happy, normal lives, why are millions of pounds are being spent on Down’s Syndrome screening each year – which in turn encourages mothers to abort their unborn children?” she asked.
Down syndrome discrimination is a problem across the world. Several years ago, CBS News report shocked the nation with its exposure of the discriminatory trend. According to the report, nearly 100 percent of unborn babies who test positive for Down syndrome are aborted in Iceland. The rate in France was 77 percent in 2015, 90 percent in the United Kingdom and 67 percent in the United States between 1995 and 2011, according to CBS.
A number of American states have passed laws to ban discrimination against unborn babies with Down syndrome, but many are blocked by legal challenges from the abortion industry.