Dozens of test tube babies have been aborted because they had Down’s syndrome.Over five years, a total of 123 foetuses conceived through IVF-type treatments were terminated after the mother was told they suffered from the genetic abnormality.
Often the women will have spent years trying to become pregnant and may have spent thousands on private fertility clinics in the hope of conceiving.
Last night, anti-abortion campaigners said the statistics on IVF terminations showed that some women treat babies like ‘designer goods’ – paying a fortune to conceive but then aborting them when they turn out not to be perfect.
Down’s syndrome is a genetic condition caused by the presence of an extra chromosome in each cell. The children grow up shorter than usual and often have learning or behavioural difficulties. There are believed to be around 60,000 people in the United Kingdom with the condition.
Statistics show that in 2009, the most recent year for which figures are available, a total of 127 abortions were carried out on babies conceived through IVF-type assistance.
The data held by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority shows that Down’s syndrome was the most commonly given reason for an abortion, cited in 31 of the cases – three times as many as in 1999. Foetal abnormality was the next biggest reason for abortion, accounting for 19 cases, while 15 babies with Edward’s syndrome – another condition caused by the presence of an extra chromosome – were also terminated.
As it is not mandatory for reasons for terminations to be recorded, the number could be higher. No reason was given in 22 cases. Between 2005 and 2009, some 123 foetuses with Down’s were terminated.
Andrea Williams, of Christian Concern, said:
‘We have to question the values of a society which focuses so greatly on adult “wants”.
‘That a woman pursues a baby through fertility treatment and then aborts it because it is not perfect is selfish and harsh.’
Josephine Quintavalle, of campaign group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said:
‘It is generally accepted that there is a significant under-reporting of abortions of babies with Down’s syndrome, but I think we are especially saddened when we read of such abortions in association with IVF, where the women involved were clearly originally desperate to have a child.’
The number of abortions carried out because of Down’s among those who conceived naturally is more than 1,000 a year – or three a day. Around nine in ten women who are told they are going to have a baby with the condition opt for a termination.
The number of terminations among potential IVF mothers could be influenced by the fact women often turn to fertility treatment later in life, when the risks of conceiving a Down’s syndrome child increase markedly.
Women over the age of 40 are 16 times more likely to have a Down’s pregnancy than a woman under the age of 25.