Mothers across the United Kingdom are calling for the cancellation of a TV show that perpetuates “horrendous discrimination” against children with Down syndrome.
“We are so deeply shocked that in 2020 Emmerdale would choose to run a storyline that follows a couple who decide to abort their baby after prenatal testing discovers Down’s Syndrome,” Ciara Smyth, of Larne, Northern Ireland, told Belfast Live.
So far, more than 18,000 people have signed a petition criticizing the British soap opera and urging the ITV channel not to air the episode.
Smyth is one of them. Her son Jacob has Down syndrome, and she is thankful that he is too young to understand what the “Emmerdale” episode is promoting.
“… but teenagers and adults that have Down’s Syndrome will,” she told the news outlet. “People that have Down’s Syndrome and their families and friends should not be exposed to such horrendous prejudice and discrimination in mainstream media that questions the worth of their lives.”
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Smyth runs a charity called Joy21 NI, which supports families of children with Down syndrome. She said many mothers feel pressured to abort unborn babies with Down syndrome, and some choose abortion based on fear, rather than an actual informed choice.
“We live in a country that has no care plan for women who receive such a diagnosis, which leads to fear – something we as a charity at Joy21 are working so hard to change,” Smyth continued. “The only people that can really inform parents of what it is like to raise a child with Down’s Syndrome are those that have a child with Down’s Syndrome.”
The “Emmerdale” producers could have used the show to help society see the value of children with Down syndrome and advocate for inclusion, she said.
“Instead it decided to support fear and misconceptions. Why are we still having to fight for equality in 2020?” Smyth said.
She urged people to sign the petition by Rachel Mewes, a British mother whose 3-year-old daughter Betsy also has Down syndrome. Earlier this week, Mewes told The Sun that the episode is “disgusting” and “irresponsible,” and it should not air.
“It violates the human rights of people with the condition, and their families, who should not be expected to have to put up with such prejudice in mainstream media,” Mewes said. “It suggests that themselves or their child would be better off dead.”
According to the report, the episode is scheduled to air this winter on ITV in England; it will show characters Laurel Thomas and Jai Sharma choosing an abortion after their unborn baby tests positive for Down syndrome.
Down syndrome discrimination is a problem across the world, and it begins before birth.
One mom recently told the BBC that she was pressured to abort her unborn daughter 15 times, including right up to the time of her baby’s birth. Another mother from Brooklyn, New York said doctors tried to convince her to abort her unborn son for weeks before they took no for an answer.
A recent study highlighted in Scientific American found evidence that families of children with Down syndrome often face negative, biased counseling and pressure to have abortions.
The abortion rates for unborn babies with Down syndrome are extremely high. Several years ago, a 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 UK and 67 percent in the United States.