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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-11807: Alex Cole-Hamilton (Edinburgh Western)

Scottish Liberal Democrats

Date lodged: 4 October 2017

To ask the Scottish Government what steps it will take to ensure that the issues highlighted in the 2013 UK Parliamentary Inquiry into Abortion on the Grounds of Disability and, in particular, its finding that many parents are steered towards abortion and feel that they do not receive adequate information regarding other options, are not exacerbated by the introduction of cell-free DNA non-invasive prenatal testing techniques.

Answered by: Aileen Campbell 26 October 2017

All pregnant women in Scotland are already offered a screening test for Down’s syndrome. If the screening test shows that the chance of having a baby with Down’s is high, women then have the option of having an invasive diagnostic test. The proposed change recommended by the UK National Screening Committee (UKNSC) is for Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) to be offered to women who are deemed at higher risk following the current primary screen. NIPT is not diagnostic and an invasive diagnostic test will still be required to receive a definitive diagnosis.

For women who choose to have NIPT, this will add in an extra step in the screening programme. The impact of this, and the choices women make at different points in the pathway, is something that the UKNSC hope to gain a better understanding of through further research. A recommendation has therefore been made to evaluate the introduction of NIPT to Down’s syndrome screening. This will include scientific, ethical and user input to better understand the impact on women, their partners and the screening programme around the offer of NIPT or invasive testing following screening.

The Scottish Government is fully committed to ensuring that pregnant women in Scotland have access to high quality, safe and effective screening services and the Scottish Screening Committee is now looking at the use of NIPT as an additional screening test for Down’s syndrome in Scotland.