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Emmerdale Boss Defends Controversial Laurel Thomas Down's Syndrome Abortion Storyline

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Emmerdale Boss Defends Controversial Laurel Thomas Down's Syndrome Abortion Storyline

Emmerdale has come under fire for a recent storylines, which is set to show Laurel Thomas (Charlotte Bellamy) and Jai Sharma (Chris Bisson) decide to abort their child after discovering it has Down's Syndrome.

The show's producer, Laurel Thomas, has now spoken out in defence of the controversial TV storyline, insisting that it had been thoroughly researched, and that people should watch the whole thing play out later this year before judging.

"We're confident that what we've produced has been done in a really balanced and sensitive way," Laura remarked.

"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.


"You're going to feel uncomfortable at times watching it, but I hope that people will then, as they watch it, understand why we've done it."

Laurel and Jai's abortion decision will play out in upcoming scenes (Credit: ITV)
Laurel and Jai's abortion decision will play out in upcoming scenes (Credit: ITV)

She added that when deciding on the storyline, ITV knew it would be "contentious" but that this was why it was "such an important story to tell".

"I'm sure we'll get some mixed reactions," Laura added.


"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.

"And what you'll see through Jai and Laurel's story is how that decision goes on to affect their lives for years to come."

The moment is set to air in the coming months, and will see the couple initially delighted as they fall pregnant.

Laurel and Jai are set to make the tough decision in the upcoming episodes (Credit: ITV)
Laurel and Jai are set to make the tough decision in the upcoming episodes (Credit: ITV)

But when they attend an early scan they learn the pregnancy isn't developing as they had expected, and their baby might have a chromosomal condition.

They pair will then undergo CVS (chorionic villus sampling) in order to discover if there are chromosomal or genetic disorders in a foetus.

And when the result comes back as Down's syndrome, they go on to make the agonising decision not to keep the child.


Following news of the upcoming plot, many Emmerdale fans and Down's syndrome campaigners have spoken out against it, and called for producers to change their tact.

Wendy O'Carroll, the founder of support charity Ups and Downs Southwest, has been one of the most widely shared critics.

In a post on Facebook, she wrote: "Your proposed story will further serve to encourage and confirm the opinion that ending the life of a baby just because it has Down syndrome is perfectly acceptable and understandable because maybe it would be better if fewer people 'like them' were in the world," she said.

"Have you considered for even a moment, how children and adults with Down's syndrome who follow your programme will react to two of their favourite characters discovering excitedly that they are to have a baby, and then deciding to terminate the life of that child because it has Down's syndrome?"


Meanwhile, Tim Reid, the co-creator of Car Share, tweeted: "Dear Emmerdale, are you confident you've tackled this story in a way your audience with Down's syndrome deserve? Have you taken the same approach you would if characters were choosing to end a pregnancy for reason of gender, race or physical disability?"

Emmerdale already has one character with Down's syndrome - nine-year-old Leo, son of Rhona and Marlon.

After hearing of the spoilers, Television presenter Adam Pearson tweeted: "Seriously @emmerdale - what year is this?

"You have a very talented disabled cast member in @jamesmooreactor and yet your running this cliched storyline? Disability is a death sentence...yada...yada...yada... Down's lives aren't worth living...yada...yada...yada..."

Antenatal Results and Choices (ARC) director Jane Fisher, who worked with Emmerdale when they were researching the storyline, said: "I think it's really important that people can speak about this, not that they must, because for many people this is a very painful and private experience.

"And that's fine, they may not want to talk about it openly.

ITV says it is telling an 'important story' (Credit: ITV)
ITV says it is telling an 'important story' (Credit: ITV)

"But they need to know that they can, and at the moment many people feel reticent to talk about what's happened to them because they fear judgement."

She added that parents who choose abortion "very sadly don't feel they have permission to grieve for the baby they've lost, because they feel implicated in that loss".

If you're in Laurel and Jai's situation, you can contact The Down's Syndrome Association for confidential advice and support.

Featured Image Credit: ITV

Topics: TV News, Emmerdale, abortion, ITV

Joanna Freedman
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