Mum of Down's syndrome child slams Emmerdale for 'spreading prejudice'

Mother whose son has Down’s syndrome slams Emmerdale for suggesting her child is ‘worth less and spreading prejudice’ with divisive storyline that sees a baby with the condition aborted

  • Claire Farrington suggested the ITV soap should rethink the upcoming plot 
  • The mother-of-two, from North London, appeared on ITV’s This Morning today 
  • Characters Laurel and Jai abort baby after being told child has Down’s syndrome 

A mother whose son has Down’s syndrome has criticised Emmerdale over its storyline which sees an unborn baby with the condition terminated. 

Claire Farrington suggested the ITV Yorkshire-based soap should rethink the upcoming plot that is set to see characters Laurel Thomas and Jai Sharma abort their unborn baby after being told by doctors that the child has Down’s syndrome.

The mother-of-two, from North London, appeared on This Morning today with her son Theo, who has the condition, and insisted the storyline ‘reinforces the stigma and fails to challenge or advance people’s views on Down’s syndrome’.

Claire confessed that she was initially ‘devastated’ at her son’s diagnosis, which wasn’t picked up before his birth, but now feels incredibly lucky. 

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Claire Farrington (pictured) suggested the ITV Yorkshire-based soap should rethink the upcoming plot that is set to see characters Laurel Thomas and Jai Sharma abort their unborn baby after being told by doctors that the child has Down’s syndrome

In the forthcoming plot, Laurel Thomas, played by Charlotte Bellamy, and Jai Sharma (pictured together), played by Chris Bisson, discover at an early scan that their baby isn’t developing as expected

The mother said: ‘I’m not here to talk about a woman’s right to choose, I think it’s fantastic that Emmerdale are covering abortion and termination.

‘It’s just why did they choose Down’s syndrome and it does just really reinforce the deep seated prejudice which is embedded in society and it reinforces the stigma.

‘Ultimately what parents of children with Down’s syndrome are feeling is that it says these children are worth less. Now we are trying to live in a world of equality and this storyline unfairly spreads a less perceived value of our children.

‘I think it’s very upsetting for all of us, because none of us in the Down’s syndrome community are judging the woman’s right to choose, but if Emmerdale were going to cover this why couldn’t they cover a condition that’s incompatible with life.’

Claired added: ‘The point here is that this is spreading prejudice about a living group of people. There are teeangers that are going to have to go into school the next day after the storyline airs, there’s already parents that are having to explain to their children why this is on the TV and what that does to their self-worth.

Claire, (pictured with her son, right) from North London, appeared on This Morning today with her son Theo, who has the condition, and insisted the storyline ‘reinforces the stigma and fails to challenge or advance people’s views on Down’s syndrome’

‘2020’s been a really difficult year and the timing of this by Emmerdale is just shocking. I just don’t understand why they’ve chosen to do this now. It doesn’t challenge or advance people’s views on Down’s syndrome, it just reinforces this perception of a lesser value.’

Claire was then asked if she would have considered having a termination if she had known Theo’s diagnosis before his birth.

‘I might’ve done, and I’ve always been honest about that,’ she said. ‘…But that misplaced devastation… is the other side of the coin. I now feel so lucky. It’s not this bleak thing that you think it is.’

It comes after more than 23,000 people have signed a petition and charities and MPs have written to ITV boss Dame Carolyn McCall calling for the plotline, airing this winter, to be scrapped. 

In the forthcoming plot, Laurel Thomas, played by Charlotte Bellamy, and Jai Sharma, played by Chris Bisson, discover at an early scan that their baby isn’t developing as expected.

 Claire (pictured) confessed that she was initially ‘devastated’ at her son’s diagnosis, which wasn’t picked up before his birth, but now feels incredibly lucky

A test, which determines chromosomal or genetic disorders in a foetus, reveals the baby has Down’s syndrome. 

A significant part of the story explores their relationship with Rhona and Marlon, another couple, whose nine-year-old son Leo has Down’s syndrome. But after agonising over what to do, Laurel and Jai decide to end the pregnancy.

ITV says that it collaborated with charity Antenatal Results and Choices, medical professionals and people with the condition. But some of the UK’s largest Down’s syndrome charities say they were not consulted. 

John Whiston, managing director of continuing drama at ITV, has defended the plot.

‘It is a story exploring a very difficult decision many parents face and their legal right to make that choice with support, rather than judgment, from their family and friends,’ he told the Daily Mail.

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