Is this the beginning of the end for Down syndrome?
As she looks at Nicholas playing at their home in Gordon Park, on Brisbane’s northside, it’s hard for Annie, a Catholic, to admit she considered abortion. So did Ben. “From a relationship perspective it was probably one of the hardest things we’ve ever had to go through,” says Annie.
That the Loves decided to have Nicholas after the amniocentesis confirmed Down syndrome makes them a rarity. Most don’t. Only 5.3 per cent of pregnancies where there is a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome are continued. This figure comes from a respected Victorian study, the only (now-defunct) research in Australia that followed the link from prenatal diagnosis to live births of babies with Down syndrome.
Released in 2008 and based on figures from 1986 to 2004, the study was co-authored by associate professor Jane Halliday, a public health genetics expert with Melbourne-based Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. “The vast majority, 95 per cent, were terminated,” she says.
It’s similar across the Western world. About 90 per cent of foetuses with a diagnosis of Down syndrome are terminated in New Zealand, about 92 per cent in the US, about 93 per cent in the UK.