Last weekend, the UK Sunday Times reported that many terminations of babies with Down syndrome are not being correctly recorded by the Department of Health. In many reports that have since appeared online it has been stated that in England 92% of babies with Down syndrome are terminated. This is incorrect.
You would think from some of the reports and comment that have appeared online in the past week that the births of virtually all babies with Down syndrome in England are prevented through prenatal screening and selective terminations. This is not the case:
It is true that 92% of diagnosed pregnancies are terminated. However, this is very different from 92% of all pregnancies. Many people choose not to screen. Many who are screened and receive a ‘high risk’ result choose not to have invasive diagnostic testing as it carries a risk of miscarriage. Some who are screened and do not receive a ‘high risk’ result will, in fact, go on to have a baby with Down syndrome.
Overall, the rate at which live births are reduced due to prenatal diagnosis and selective terminations in England and Wales in recent years was around 50%-55%.