A piece in the UK Mail on Sunday claims Department of Health statistics show “women choosing to abort babies with Down’s syndrome and other serious disabilities soars 34% in three years” and that “the biggest proportion was linked to Down’s syndrome, with 693 terminations last year compared with 512 in 2011”. Data collected by the National Down Syndrome Cytogenetic Register (NDSCR) shows this is not the case.
There is a remarkable headline in The Mail on Sunday today claiming terminations of babies with Down syndrome have “soared 34% in three years”. It quotes “an investigation into figures published by the Department of Health”.
In England and Wales, there is a national registry collecting data on prenatal and postnatal diagnoses. Their data (collected since 1989) is widely cited in academic studies and is 94% complete. I’m not sure where the Mail on Sunday (and perhaps more worryingly, the Department of Health) are sourcing their information, but it is way off.
The article claims there were 512 terminations of pregnancies diagnosed with Down syndrome in 2011 and 693 in 2014 – a rise of 181 (35%).
NDSCR reports 1,134 terminations of pregnancies diagnosed with Down syndrome in 2011 and 1,018 in 2013 – a fall of 2% over two years. NDSCR has not yet reported on 2014.
This graph shows the number of terminations of pregnancies diagnosed with Down syndrome (columns) and terminations as a percentage of all diagnosed cases (prenatal and postnatal).
(Note: The % terminated statistic is not the reduction rate – i.e. the rate at which live births are reduced as a result of screening and selective terminations. This is because approximately 23% of the terminated pregnancies would not have resulted in a live birth.)