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Proposal offers free screenings for Down’s Syndrome

2014-01-23 09:45 Global Times Web Editor: Li Yan

Two political parties have submitted proposals to the Shanghai Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) to give free prenatal screening for Down's Syndrome to pregnant women in the city, a member of one of the parties said Wednesday.

The free screening for Down's Syndrome, one of the most common genetic birth defects in the city, will ensure that pregnant women have the proper information to decide whether to carry a pregnancy to term, said Yan Lingyun, a senior official from the Jiu San Society in Shanghai, one of the parties that put forward the proposal.

The Jiu San Society in Shanghai and the Shanghai Committee of the Chinese Peasants and Workers Democratic Party (CPWDP) proposed that the government pay for the prenatal screening or include the screening in maternity insurance.

Down's Syndrome typically results in a serious intellectual disability.

A total of 314 children were born with the genetic disorder in Shanghai in 2012, according to the proposal by the Shanghai Committee of CPWDP.

Although Down's Syndrome is one of the five most prevalent genetic birth defects in Shanghai, only about 40 percent of pregnant women citywide undergo the screening, according to the parties' proposal. The rate is lower in the suburbs.

A prenatal screening for Down's Syndrome costs about 160 yuan ($26).

The Shanghai Committee of CPWDP's proposal did not shy away from estimating the societal costs of children with Down's Syndrome. Every child born with the disorder will cost their families about 390,000 yuan and the government about 450,000 yuan over their lifetimes.

"Families need to be informed about what they will go through if they choose to give birth to a child with Down's Syndrome," Yan told the Global Times.

Pregnant women in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province; Weifang, Shandong province; and Guangzhou, Guangdong province, already receive free screenings for Down's Syndrome, according to the proposal.

Yan also suggested that the government makes the screening mandatory to all pregnant women in Shanghai.

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