Emmerdale producers have come under scrutiny recently, as their forthcoming storyline which sees long running characters Laurel and Jai terminate their unborn child after finding out it has downs syndrome.
The storyline which is due to be shown in the new year has rapidly prompt backlash, as viewers and campaigners believe it’s portraying that people living with Down’s syndrome, do not live lives worth living.
The forthcoming storyline will see Laurel Thomas (Charlotte Bellamy) and Jai Sharma (Chris Bisson) find out they are expecting a baby, but later on hear that the baby isn’t developing as rapidly as it should. They both decide to go through with the CVS (chorionic villus sampling) test which then will confirm the baby does indeed have down’s syndrome. Which leads the couple deciding to terminate the pregnancy because of the condition the baby has.
“we know Emmerdale haven’t spoken to charities and individuals ”
The ITVs soap producer Laura Shaw has stated they’ve spoken to many people as they possibly could, and they’ve also got the research to prove it.
“We’re confident that what we’ve produced has been done in a really balanced and sensitive way” she said. “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”.
Ken Ross who runs Portsmouth Down’s Syndrome association which is one of the biggest charities in the country for the disability, is appalled by Emmerdale’s approach to the topic. He is urging the soap to discard the storyline as it’s highly hurtful towards the community.
“Emmerdale said they had spoken to charities and individuals, we know they haven’t spoken to charities and individuals because they spoke to charities after they made the programme”, he said.
“So the only charity they spoke to before hand is a charity called Ark, which is a charity which isn’t impartial. If you look at the documentary ‘a world without Down’s Syndrome’ Jane Fisher who is the director of Ark, they’re a charity which supports people post termination. So they’re narrative is if someone says they have a diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome is to put them on a path towards a termination”.
What is Down’s Syndrome?
It’s believed that around 90% of people who find out their child has Down’s syndrome has an abortion.
About 40,000 in the UK have the condition.
Between every 700 and 1000 babies born, one will have Down’s syndrome. This means they have an extra chromosome.
In the 1960s life expectancy was age 15. Life expectancy is now aged between 50 and 60.
Rachel Legg who is a twenty-five year old mum from Cardiff, has two children one of which has Down’s Syndrome. Her six year old daughter Imogen who has Down’s syndrome lives a very fulfilled life stated by Rachel.
“They’ve chose to pick a disability which is very much compatible with life” she said. “There’s other things they could have done, there’s just no need. They could still have had the same effect with having a pregnancy which ended in a termination, that could have been based on a diagnosis in which the baby would not have survived. They could have said the babies brain was not developed or the baby stopped growing, there’s loads of things they could have used, but they’ve chose to use a disability that is compatible with life” she went onto say.
Rachel like many other parents are urging the soap to change the story line as it is highly hurtful towards the community. “Theres so much time spent at the moment in the Down’s syndrome community fighting for equality, and I feel like this storyline is just ripping that all away”, she said.
“There’s a lot of young adults who do sit and watch television, and just because they got a disability doesn’t mean they don’t understand what they’re watching, and they can’t take it on. They’re then going to feel as if their lives aren’t as valuable compared to anybody else’s” she added.
The ITV soap are still going to go ahead with the plotline, and Laura Shaw the series producer has said “I’m sure we’ll get some mixed reactions, I’m well aware that it’s a hugely emotive subject. But I do honestly think that once everyone has watched the episodes play out, they’re going to feel huge sympathy for what an impossible and difficult choice these couples face, and an understanding” she said.
“And what you’ll see through Jai and Laurels story is how that decision goes onto affect their lives for the years to come”.