By Hilary White

LONDON, September 17, 2008 ( – The invasive procedures used to detect Down syndrome in unborn children result in the miscarriages of two healthy children for every three Down babies detected, a British study has found.

The study’s researchers, from the charity Down Syndrome Education International (DSEI), estimate that in the process of detecting and aborting 660 Down babies annually, screening leads to the deaths of 400 babies who do not have the disorder in England and Wales alone. Based upon their findings, the researchers are calling into question the ethical standing of the government’s policy of offering screening to all pregnant women.

Women are regarded as being more at risk of carrying a Down syndrome child if they become pregnant after age 35. 6,000 women each year in Britain are offered screening by blood tests and subsequent invasive testing to assess the condition of their unborn babies. However, the researchers point out that 95 percent of women deemed to be high risk by the blood test will not be carrying a baby with the disorder, yet most go on to have the invasive tests, thereby greatly increasing the risk of miscarriage.

The organisation opposes the widespread assumption that Down syndrome children should be aborted before birth and works to provide assistance to families and does research and lobbying on behalf of people with Down syndrome. “Our vision,” DSEI says, “is a world where all young people with Down syndrome are offered the opportunities that they need to achieve their individual potential.”

Under British law, abortion for eugenic purposes is not restricted to the 24 week gestational limit, but may be legally carried out up to the point of birth for children suspected of having “serious” abnormalities.

The DSEI research, which authors admit is only an “estimate” of the number of deaths of non-Down children, is backed up by findings published last year by Dr. Hylton Meire. Meire calculated that for every 50 children with Down syndrome successfully identified and killed by abortion, 160 non-affected babies are lost by miscarriage after the test.

If a woman is suspected of carrying a Down baby, she routinely moves from screening to amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling (CVS) tests. These involve inserting a fine needle through the abdomen to either withdraw amniotic fluid or tissue samples.

Dr. Meire wrote in the Journal Ultrasound that with about one in every 1000 children conceived having Down syndrome, and with amniocentesis carrying a one in 200 risk of miscarriage, as many as 3,200 healthy babies die by miscarriage every year because of testing.

The NHS admits of a miscarriage rate of only one to two percent following the invasive testing. However, the NHS only tracks statistics for Down syndrome children killed by abortion or who subsequently die as a result of miscarriage. The DSEI researchers said that the official statistics do not count the number of healthy children lost to miscarriages caused by the tests.

DSEI research also found, however, that more children with Down’s syndrome are surviving to birth than in the previous 15 years, despite the increasing pressure on women to have the tests and to kill their Down child before birth. Their research found that births of babies with Down syndrome have risen 25 per cent in 15 years in England.

Frank Buckley, the charity’s Chief Executive and co-author of the report, said, “At the same time, life expectancy and quality of life continue to improve.”

“More people are living with Down syndrome than ever before with over 600,000 across Europe and North America and maybe 4 million worldwide. There is still much more to do, but people with Down syndrome are achieving more thanks to better healthcare, better opportunities and more effective teaching approaches.”

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