We are devastated by Emmerdale's Down's Syndrome abortion storyline… our kids are a joy

EMMERDALE has come under fire for featuring a couple ­ending a ­pregnancy after being told their baby will have Down’s syndrome.

Nicola Enoch, who founded ­campaign group ­Positive About Down Syndrome, said: “Many in the Down syndrome community are ­disappointed and angry that ­Emmerdale has chosen to portray having Down syndrome as something to be feared and avoided. The story is insulting and offensive to those with Down syndrome, their families and friends.”

A petition calling for the storyline to be dropped has been launched, and The Sun has received letters on both sides of the issue. 

A spokesman for the soap said: “After much consideration and research, Emmerdale decided to tell the story of Laurel and Jai and their choice to terminate. The full context will be portrayed in ­forthcoming episodes.” 

We speak to the mothers of four children about life with Down’s syndrome – and Rosa Monckton writes about her daughter Domenica, Princess Diana’s god-daughter.

‘I’d hate Zephy to watch this and think they terminated because the baby was like him’

ZEPHY Ojar has featured in a Sainsbury’s baby food ad and was part of a team of 15 children who raised more than £40,000 during the pandemic for his local support group, Down’s South London.

The three-year-old lives with his mum, Sarah, 37, a doula, who supports women through pregnancy, birth and the newborn weeks, dad ­Matthew, 35, a music and media engineer, 17-month-old twins Hanna and Noa and sister Elisha, six.

Sarah, from Lambeth, South London, said: “We discovered Zephy would have Down’s syndrome while I was pregnant.

“We were scared at first. But we both knew we would go ahead regardless.

“What really helped was that one of my friends has a son with Down’s syndrome. 

“I knew he had his ­challenges but he was happy and healthy and there wasn’t any real difference between him and the other children in our group.

“Zephy is a cheeky little boy, he’s very funny and a great big brother.

“The hardest thing about Down’s syndrome isn’t my son, he is ­amazing – it’s getting the support he needs. It’s a constant battle. It’s heartbreaking to fill in forms detailing what your child can’t do. It feels like a betrayal. 

“It’s ironic that he isn’t eligible for a dis­abled blue badge, yet when I was preg­nant I was advised to terminate because he would be so disabled. 

“I would never judge another person’s decision, but there should be more information for parents. I wasn’t given any support or signposting to where I could find out more. 

“Instead, you’re presented with a list of horrible conditions your child might possibly have.

“I know someone who was advised 15 times to terminate her pregnancy.

“I understand Emmerdale wants to deal with the heartbreak of ­termination, but it could have been done without mentioning Down’s syndrome. I would hate to think of my son watching this in years to come and thinking the reason the char­acters ended the pregnancy was because their baby would be like him.” 

‘Elsie is more than perfect. Funny and sociable, she has enriched our lives’

CHILD model Elsie Stones, six, adores the camera, but would prefer to be a hairdresser when she grows up.

She lives with her mum Chloe, 43, a community fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House Charities, dad Adam, 39, a quantity ­surveyor, and brother Seb, five.

Chloe, from Banstead, Surrey, said: “Since Elsie signed with a modelling agency two years ago, she has done campaigns for M&S, Tesco’s clothing range F&F, Childrensalon and appeared in the Argos catalogue.

“She loves having her picture taken, an inner confidence comes out.

“We had a one in 5,500 chance of having a baby with Down’s ­syndrome.

“When Elsie was born, like all parents, we fell in love with our miracle IVF baby.

“Within the first half hour, Adam said, ‘I don’t want to worry you, but do you think she looks like she has Down’s?’ This suspicion was shared by the doctor and, a week later after tests, the ­diag­nosis was confirmed.

“We were both heartbroken, mainly because we had no idea what ­having a child with Down’s syndrome would mean. I worried what health complications she might have, if people would accept her and if I would be able to cope.

“I admit you do think initially, ‘We haven’t got the perfect baby’, but I look at her now and Elsie is more than perfect. She has enriched our lives.

“Elsie is funny, sociable and confident, she goes horse-riding. She’s a joy.

“When I heard about the Emmerdale storyline, my heart sank. Down’s syndrome isn’t a life-limiting condition on its own ­without other complications.

“Everyone has a choice and everyone’s circumstances are different, but I hope that when making that choice, ­people have the right information available.

“If I had met someone like Elsie before we got the diagnosis, I wouldn’t have been so worried about what her life might be like.”

‘Oliver is the best thing that has ever happened to me. He is a normal boy’

CHEEKY Oliver Bennett, ten, has achieved a green belt in taekwondo. He lives with mum Jenny Wright, 51, and his sister Sophie, 21, in Braunston, Northants. 

Jenny said: “You can’t judge other people’s choices, but I wish ­people could see 24 hours in my life and know how wonderful it is to have a child with Down’s syndrome.

“Yes, sometimes it can take 20 minutes to walk home from school because we have to chat to every person and climb every tree, but how can you ­complain?

“When I conceived at 40, I knew I was considered to have a high chance of having a baby with Down’s syndrome. Blood results after my 12-week scan put me at a one in 150 chance of having a baby with Down’s syndrome.

“Before getting pregnant, I had talked to Sophie and my son Tom, now 23, and explained that if there was any problem with the baby then I wouldn’t ­continue with the pregnancy. 

“But as soon as I knew I was expecting, everything changed.

“Oliver’s dad and I were taken into a bereavement room and asked whether we would undergo an amniocentesis (diagnostic test), to see whether there was a chromosomal abnormality.

“All I kept saying was, ‘I couldn’t live with myself if I had a ­miscarriage because of the procedure, but I can live with a baby with Down’s.’ Oliver is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

“The only time I ever got upset about Down’s syndrome was when I told my parents.

“I have only felt ­absolute love for him.

“I didn’t go back to my job in sales after having Oliver because I wanted to do everything I could to give him a full life.

“We went to hydro­therapy, physiotherapy, sign language classes, whatever we could tap into.

“Every day, Oliver goes to a different activity. He hasn’t gone through his taekwondo gradings as quickly as some children, but his instructor says that for any child of his age to stick at a sport for four years is an achievement.

“People say, ‘Oh, isn’t he loving,’ but Oliver is no more loving than his siblings. 

“He is a normal boy with normal emotions. He can be a toad ­sometimes, but he’s an angel most of the time.”

‘Beth was very much wanted. She has a fantastic, cheeky sense of humour’

BETH Costerton, seven, has appeared in TV show Call The Midwife and her picture was chosen as part of the national Portrait of Britain exhibition in 2016.

She lives in Sutton, South West London, with her mum, Sarah, 46, a former nurse and now full-time mum, dad David, 44, a chimney sweep, and sisters Hannah, ten, and Jessie, three.

Sarah said: “Beth was very much wanted, and she was still wanted even when we discovered she had a one in two chance of having that extra chromosome.

“I remember meeting our consultant and before I’d taken my coat off, he said: ‘I just want to check you’re keeping it because that’s not what everyone else does.’

“It’s true that almost 90 per cent of people expecting a baby with Down’s syndrome choose to terminate but I was shocked by his ­attitude. He later apologised to us.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the information you get about Down’s ­syndrome is very negative. You’re told about likely concerns with their sight, hearing and heart.

“The most common sight problem is long-sightedness and just means wearing glasses. Hearing problems are often just glue ear.

“Around half of babies with Down’s syndrome have a heart condition. Some need corrective surgery, like Beth, who had a hole in her heart, which was a straight­forward procedure. 

“People say, ‘What will happen when you and David die?’ First, I hope that’s a long way off and, ­second, we will do everything we can to give Beth as ­independent a life as possible.

“Beth can be shy but she has a fantastic sense of humour. She’s incredibly cheeky – she insists on calling her teacher by her surname only, not ‘Mrs Watson’.

“She does ballet, swimming, horse-riding. She fights and plays with her sisters like any child.

“Many of us feel all the hard work we’ve done to show how people with Down’s syndrome can have a fairly normal life will be undone by the Emmerdale storyline.

“There wouldn’t be a storyline discriminating against a group of ­people based on race or sexuality, yet apparently it’s okay to discriminate against 40,000 people in the UK who have Down’s syndrome.

“I don’t think this is going to teach the viewers anything.”

My girl’s taught me so much

MY daughter Domenica is 25 years old. She loves singing, dancing and cooking.

She also happens to have Down’s syndrome.

Five years ago, I started the charity Team Domenica in her name. We train young adults with many different learning disabilities, and our aim is to get them into paid employment.

We run three cafes, deliver an accredited educational programme and work with more than 40 businesses in Brighton and Hove.

Domenica has a paid job every summer at the Pavilion Gardens Cafe and is doing a supported internship in the kitchens of the Grand Hotel.

She is also a qualified Zumba instructor, although she’s too shy to give a class.

Her life is as full of love, pain and joy as any other.

Domenica has taught me many things – that loving someone, and seeing with the heart, is such a simple thing; that social veneer and grandstanding count for absolutely nothing and that what is important in someone lies underneath.

Domenica makes me laugh, she makes me cry and has taught me that happiness is not just an illusion.

I could not begin to imagine our family life without her.

See teamdomenica.com

  • By Rosa Monckton, Businesswoman, charity founder and friend of Princess Diana, who was godmother to her daughter Domenica

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