C of E backs motion valuing people with Down’s syndrome
General Synod calls for more information about condition, amid abortion fears
The ruling body of the Church of England voted unanimously in favour of the motion. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA
The Church of England’s ruling body has voted unanimously in favour of valuing people with Down’s syndrome.
The General Synod backed a motion calling on the government to ensure that parents who have been told their unborn child has Down’s syndrome will be given “comprehensive, unbiased information” regarding the condition.
The motion, put forward by James Newcome, the bishop of Carlisle, also called for parents to be provided with “full information about the support available and the future prospects of those with this condition, with no implied preference for any outcome”.
Newcome said the debate was not about the ethics of abortion, pointing out that the church’s position on that issue is clearly stated.
He said: “Although the motion today has partly been prompted by some people’s concern that the abortion rate for those diagnosed with Down’s syndrome could increase to nearly 100 per cent, the rights and wrongs of abortion itself are not the purpose of our discussion.”
He also said the motion was not an attack on non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT), a test for Down’s syndrome for expectant mothers.
NIPT is a blood test to check for traces of chromosomal syndromes. Research shows the test could result in a fall in the number of women undergoing invasive testing each year - meaning there could be a reduction in the number of miscarriages related to the invasive diagnostic test.
Newcome said the motion was “definitely not an attempt to tell women what they should do when faced with a desperately difficult personal decision”.
He said the debate was “a call for love”, adding: “We are not telling people what to decide: but we do want the decisions that are made to be properly informed, and we don’t want Down’s syndrome to be automatically presented as ‘bad news’.”
The motion was backed unanimously by 284 members of the synod. - PA