Disability community condemn Emmerdale abortion storyline — Scope | Disability forum
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Disability community condemn Emmerdale abortion storyline

Ross_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,652 Disability Gamechanger

Emmerdale producers have defended a forthcoming storyline which will see a couple terminate their pregnancy after discovering their unborn child has Down's syndrome.

Last week's announcement of the storyline prompted a backlash from some viewers, who said the ITV soap was adding to stigma around the condition.

What is the storyline?

An upcoming plotline will see Laurel Thomas (played by Charlotte Bellamy) and Jai Sharma (played by Chris Bisson) delighted when they unexpectedly get pregnant.

But an early scan will show the pregnancy isn't developing as expected and there is the possibility the baby has a chromosomal condition. They decide to have a CVS (chorionic villus sampling) test, which is used to determine chromosomal or genetic disorders in a foetus. The result they receive tells them the baby has Down's syndrome.

Laurel and Jai will then be seen agonising over what to do, before ultimately deciding to end the pregnancy.

It might be worth noting that Emmerdale does have one character with Down's syndrome, Rhona and Marlon's 9 year old son Leo.


Why some viewers are offended

Some Emmerdale fans and Down's syndrome campaigners said the ITV soap was perpetuating the idea that those with Down's syndrome do not lead lives worth living.

Wendy O'Carroll, the founder of support charity Ups and Downs Southwest, voiced her concerns in an open letter to Emmerdale which was widely shared on social media.

"Your proposed story will further serve to encourage and confirm the opinion that ending the life of a baby just because it has Down syndrome is perfectly acceptable and understandable because maybe it would be better if fewer people 'like them' were in the world,"

"Have you considered for even a moment, how children and adults with Down syndrome who follow your programme will react to two of their favourite characters discovering excitedly that they are to have a baby, and then deciding to terminate the life of that child because it has Down syndrome?"


The show's response

Laura Shaw, the series producer for the soap, said:

"We're confident that what we've produced has been done in a really balanced and sensitive way,. We haven't gone into this blindly, we've spoken to as many people as we possibly can. We've got the research, this is based on real life, and I think people will see that."

She went on to say "You're going to feel uncomfortable at times watching it, but I hope that people will then, as they watch it, understand why we've done it."

What do you think of the plotline?

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  • woodbine
    woodbine Community member Posts: 10,414 Disability Gamechanger
    Personally I would defend the right for a woman to chose in every case.
    Seasons greetings to one and all 🎄🎅🏻🌲
  • Oxonlady
    Oxonlady Scope Member Posts: 566 Pioneering
    I understand that this is a very controversial subject. But I suppose I am entitled to my opinions as much as everyone else and I'm merely expressing it, not forcing it onto anyone else. So here goes:
    Yes, a woman has a right to choose but so does an unborn child.
    So how do we choose whose right overrides the other's? They are both human beings, with a valid claim to their rights. Do we leave it up to the individual to decide?

    With regards to the question of aborting children simply because they have Downs, it's worth noting that although pre-natal tests can detect Downs, they can't predict the degree of symptoms a child may have once born. In any case, all the Downs people I have encountered, including my lovely auntie, have been wonderful, joyful people with no guile. That, as far as I am concerned, is admirable. I don't see the problem and I don't agree with the Emmerdale storyline. It reinforces the unjustified stigma on Downs children and people with disabilities in general. Should society really be chasing some supposed stereotype of "perfection"? Some people abort babies with a cleft palate for goodness sake. Life is precious, in whatever form. 
  • deb74
    deb74 Community member Posts: 812 Pioneering
     I am very anti abortion. I believe everyone has a right to life! Just imagine if all our parents believed in abortion many of us on this forum wouldn't be here!
  • Cher_Alumni
    Cher_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 5,741 Disability Gamechanger
    Thank you for your comments @debs74 and @Oxonlady

    I caught up with Emmerdale a few nights back and saw some of the plotline where Laurel and Jai had it confirmed their baby had Down's syndrome.  The story saw Laurel bump into another character who had a child with Down's syndrome and they had a heated exchange, arguing for and against the decision to abort. 

    Although this might have been an attempt to portray both positions, I personally believe the storyline shouldn't have gone ahead.  It compounds the ableist idea that people with Down's syndrome are less than human, have lives that are tragic, invalid, and worthy of termination.  In an era when we are fighting for equality for disabled people, having this up for mainstream public consumption is incredibly unhelpful.  

    Please note:  I understand decisions to terminate are never black/white, are nuanced, highly personal and dependent on circumstances.  My judgement here is of the TV producers who have a duty to produce socially responsible programming.
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  • woodbine
    woodbine Community member Posts: 10,414 Disability Gamechanger
    On abortion in general I still maintain that every woman has the right of choice after all they are the ones who will have to give birth to and care for a child.
    Eight weeks after our second child was born my OH found she was pregnant, after serious consideration she decided that she wanted an abortion and I was 100% behind her, shortly afterwards I had a vasectomy, have we had regrets? No if i'm totally honest it was the right decision for us at that time.
    Our first child was lost 8 weeks into the pregnancy and that still causes us some sadness.
    Seasons greetings to one and all 🎄🎅🏻🌲
  • Cher_Alumni
    Cher_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 5,741 Disability Gamechanger
    @woodbine I'm sorry to hear about your loss  :(   That must have been tough and I can understand the pain still being there today.  
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