Readers may be aware that a storyline on the popular TV programme Emmerdale features a couple who have been told that their unborn baby may have Down Syndrome and the current storyline will see them decide to have an abortion.
The storyline has provoked significant controversy in Britain with disability rights groups encouraging supporters to contact the producers of the programme. Campaign Heidi Crowter and actress Sally Phillips have also lent their voices to the campaign. A petition has been signed by nearly 30,000 people to date.
This week Down Syndrome Ireland, a leading organisation in Ireland which provides services and support to children and adults with Down Syndrome have issued a statement which is critical of the storyline.
They said: “We do not welcome this storyline. It will be challenging and distressing for many people with Down syndrome and their families, as well as for expectant parents.” “People may choose to end a pregnancy for many reasons, but by identifying the diagnosis of Down syndrome as a key factor, the programme is targeting a specific group unnecessarily. Emmerdale, like all TV soap operas, relies on dramatic themes, but the difficult emotions and choices that arise when considering termination could have been explored without mentioning Down syndrome.” “We would like to remind TV producers that people with Down syndrome watch TV programmes, listen to the news and read media articles. This storyline will be challenging and distressing for many people with Down syndrome and their families, as well as for expectant parents.”
DSI have asked the producers to cancel or amend the storyline before it is broadcast and remove the reference to Down syndrome before it is broadcast on Monday, November 30th.
It is heartening to see an organisation that supports people with Down Syndrome both supporting their services users directly and also responding to wider societal attitudes about people with Down Syndrome in our community.