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Sally Phillips hits out at 'thoughtless' Emmerdale Down's syndrome storyline

Sally Phillips has slammed Emmerdale as ‘thoughtless’ for running a Down’s syndrome abortion story during Disability Awareness Month.

The actress, whose 16-year-old son Olly has Down’s syndrome, argued that upcoming storyline — which sees mainstays Laurel and Jai end their pregnancy after discovering the baby will born with Down’s syndrome — causes ‘unnecessary hurt’.

She told The Daily Mail: ‘If Emmerdale wanted to tell a storyline of a termination of pregnancy for medical reasons to support women who choose that path, it could have been told without identifying a specific condition.

‘The use of a Down syndrome diagnosis brings unnecessary hurt to a group of individuals, many of whom watch and enjoy the show precisely because there is a character with Down syndrome.

‘Disability hate crime is on the rise and running with this storyline in Disability Awareness Month was at best poorly informed and thoughtless, and at worst irresponsible.’

Disability Awareness Month takes place from November 18th to December 20th.

The Emmerdale storyline kicks off soon, and will see Laurel (Charlotte Bellamy) discover that she is pregnant — something which she and partner Jai (Chris Bisson) are over the moon about.

A scan will then reveal that not all is as it should be. The couple will be told their pregnancy isn’t developing as expected and that there is the possibility the baby has a chromosomal condition. 

They decide to have the CVS (chorionic villus sampling) test, and the result they receive informs them the baby has Down’s syndrome. 

The couple subsequently have some very deep emotional conversations, before ultimately making the very sad decision not to proceed with the pregnancy.

On why the ITV soap is tackling this story, producer Laura Shaw previously told Metro.co.uk: ‘It’s still a hugely taboo subject, though, and having spoken to the charity and spoken to people with lived experience, it was heartbreaking to hear how many women and men go through this but don’t speak to anyone about it, through fear of being judged or shamed.’

‘As you’ve probably gathered by now, 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.’

‘What do I hope viewers will take away from it? I just hope they’ll take away that what we’ve shown isn’t about right or wrong. It isn’t about whether you agree or not, it’s just about people making really difficult decisions and they should be allowed to do that without living in fear of being judged or shamed.’

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