Emmerdale viewers were heartbroken tonight as Laurel Thomas (Charlotte Bellamy) and Jai Sharma (Chris Bisson) made the difficult decision to terminate the pregnancy of their unborn baby.
The couple had discovered that their child had Down’s Syndrome and so felt they would be unable to care for them.
Laurel and Jai’s heartbreaking decision had already amassed more than 400 complaints to TV watchdog before the episode aired. Many have been divided about the termination with some expressing their concern about the ramifications of airing such a storyline.
During the episode, Jai talked over his options regarding the pregnancy and said: ‘[Laurel’s] 46, it’s a massive commitment.
‘What’s the point in long discussions if we already know the outcome? Ultimately its out of my hands, I’m gonna have to live with whatever laurel decides.’
He added: ‘I can’t lose Laurel, I love her. I don’t even know if i want to go through with this pregnancy.’
Laurel also had a discussion with Rhonda Goskirk (Zoe Henry) about the abortion but her friend reacted in horror, revealing that she also considered terminating a baby once before deciding against it.
Reacting to events in the episode, one viewer said: ‘Laurels body, Laurels choice, no woman should ever be made to feel guilty for doing what she believes is the right thing for her.’
Explaining why they’re upset with the storyline, one viewer said: ‘My take on this sl isn’t that people shouldn’t have the choice – more the fact they’ve chosen this as a two sides issue, a debate to be having on tv while disabled ppl and their families are struggling so much already. How do they think those ppl feel watching this?’
Praising Emmerdale for the scenes, another weighed in: ‘No one is saying Down syndrome babies should be aborted. We know theyre joys to have but abortions can come for various reasons, I love that #emmerdale are showing a ‘controversial’ storyline that thousands of women deal with daily, but abortion isn’t controversial, it’s a right.’
Addressing Rhona’s reaction to Laurel’s revelation, one said: ‘Rohna guilt for considering an abortion is being pushed onto Laurel. I can’t imagine how hard this could be for anyone.’
‘Oh! Rhona and Laurel’s heart to heart is tough to watch. I feel for both women,’ another said.
Leading charity Down’s Syndrome Association has distanced itself from the plotline and denied that they were working with Emmerdale on the storyline.
Following the episode on November 30 where Laurel asked about an abortion, 265 complaints were registered with Ofcom. Since then, Ofcom has confirmed that a further 182 complaints have been lodged.
A petition signed by more than 30,000 people has asked the show to drop the storyline.
Show producer Laura Shaw told Metro.co.uk: ‘We’re confident that what we’ve produced has been done in a really balanced and sensitive way. 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.’
Emmerdale airs weeknights on ITV.
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