Hundreds of furious Emmerdale viewers complain to Ofcom as controversial Down’s Syndrome abortion storyline kicks off

HUNDREDS of furious Emmerdale viewers have complained to Ofcom as the ITV soap's controversial Down's Syndrome abortion storyline kicked off.

On Monday's episode, Laurel and Jai were left devastated when a doctor told them their unborn child could have a chromosomal disorder after a scan showed irregularities with the foetus.

Laurel was quick to enquire about abortion, with the upsetting scenes sparking 265 official complaints to the TV watchdog.

The controversial storyline gathered significant backlash as soon as it was revealed, with groups and organisations supporting those with Down's speaking out – as well as parents of children with the disorder.

More than 30,000 people signed a petition that demanded the plot was axed, but Emmerdale bosses have insisted that they won't be doing this.

One mum, Rachel Mewes, slammed the soap as "disgusting" and "irresponsible" as she said it adds to the stigma her three-year-old daughter Betsy faces as a child with Down's Syndrome.

She said: "Promoting abortion of babies with Down's syndrome through this storyline is absolutely disgusting.

"It violates the human rights of people with the condition, and their families, who should not be expected to have to put up with such prejudice in mainstream media.

"It suggests that themselves or their child would be better off dead.

"TV shows are big influencers in our society and that comes with responsibility."


Producers of the series said they consulted with "medical professionals, charities and parents with lived experience", but Rachel is adamant this was directed at those who have terminated pregnancies and not families with the syndrome itself.

The soap also came under fire by disability campaigner Adam Pearson.

He called the storyline "cliched", highlighting that disability is still portrayed as a "death sentence", even in 2020.

An ITV spokesperson previously told The Sun: "Viewers who watch Emmerdale will know Rhona and Marlon have a much loved son, Leo.

What is Down’s Syndrome?

Down’s Syndrome is a genetic condition when you’re born with an extra chromosome.

People born with the condition nearly always have physical and intellectual disabilities.

As adults, their mental abilities tend to be similar to those of an eight or nine-year-old.

Around one in 10 children with Down's syndrome also have another condition, such as ADHD or being on the autism spectrum.

There is no “cure” for Down's syndrome, but there is support available, such as access to healthcare specialists and development therapists.

Many people with the condition are able to leave home, have relationships and be largely independent.

"Leo has Down’s syndrome and for the last nine years he’s been on screen portraying a happy, fun-loving boy who is very much wanted and cared for by his parents and family.

"After much consideration and extensive research, Emmerdale decided to tell the story of Laurel and Jai and their choice to terminate their pregnancy.

"The full context of Laurel and Jai’s story will be portrayed in detail in forthcoming episodes, because understandably the couple only reach this heart-breaking decision after much soul-searching.

"Emmerdale felt the story of thousands of couples who make this choice every year, feeling unable to talk about it, needed to be told."

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