Sally Phillips has claimed pregnant women come under pressure to abort babies with Down’s syndrome.
The ‘Bridget Jones Baby’ actress and mum-of-three wrote in the Radio Times:
“If we deny someone the chance to be born because we’ve decided they won’t meet some predetermined measure of status or achievement, then we’ve failed to grasp what it means to be human.”
Phillips oldest son Ollie, now 12, has Down’s syndrome. She spoke to other mothers of children with the condition while making a documentary for BBC2, which explores the impact of a new NHS screening test.
“I have heard many stories of women being pressurised by medical professionals to screen, and even to terminate,” Phillips wrote, recalling how one mother told her she had been booked for an abortion without her consent.
The Daily Mail reported that Phillips said she could not understand how it is legal in the UK for a foetus with a disability to be terminated right up until the moment when labour starts.
However, Jane Fisher, director of the charity Antenatal Results and Choices (ARC), told The Huffington Post UK this statement is “slightly sensationalised”.
“There is a clause in the abortion law (commonly known as ‘Ground E’) that allows for termination beyond 24 weeks if two doctors believe the fetal anomaly diagnosed represents ‘substantial risk’ of ‘severe handicap’ were the baby to be born,” she said.
“Post 24 week terminations for fetal anomaly are few in number – around 200 a year. Doctors take their responsibility very seriously and it is agonising for parents to make the decision to end what is most often a much-wanted pregnancy at such a late stage. “