Australian Government: Don't Screen Out Children with Down's Syndrome
The Australian Government is facing pressure from large biotech firms to introduce a new pre-natal screening test (cf-DNA testing or Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing - NIPT) that is projected to lead to more children with Down’s syndrome being screened out by terminations.
The biotech firms that sell these tests are eager to have them paid for as part of the government funded Medicare programme as they stand to be able to win contracts for providing the tests and profit from their introduction, as they have been able to recently do in the UK.
Collection of statistics in Australia is not consistent but we do know that large percentages of children with Down’s syndrome are already aborted with, for example, 93% detected in utero in Western Australia being aborted. If we see these tests introduced, the number aborted is projected to rise.
This would have a profound long-term effect on the population of people with Down's syndrome in the community and enable a kind of informal eugenics in which people with certain kinds of disabilities are effectively 'screened out' of the Australian population before they are even born.
In the UK, the private availability of cfDNA testing has already been blamed for a 34% increase in numbers of children aborted with Down's syndrome and other disabilities in three years. As has been covered in the media recently, in Iceland, nearly 100% of children with Down’s syndrome detected in-utero are now aborted.
A recent feature on 60 minutes illustrates that parents in Australia are often facing immense pressure from some medical professionals to terminate children with Down's syndrome, as they perpetuate outdated stereotypes of the lived experience of people with Down’s syndrome.
This is where reform and funding is needed - ensuring that every parent that faces a pre-natal diagnosis is provided with balanced and non-discriminatory information on their child’s condition. This needs to be combined with more concrete support for parents before and after birth.
Sign this petition to urge Australian Government Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, to reject big biotech’s push to introduce these tests and instead put this funding into better information and support for parents who have a child with a disability.