Jai and Laurel to face heartbreaking decision in Emmerdale

This winter Emmerdale will portray a storyline regarding a couple making the very difficult decision to end their pregnancy after a prenatal diagnosis.

“Right from the moment the idea was first mooted for this storyline, we knew it was one that if we went ahead with, it had to be fully researched, which involved us speaking to medical professionals, charities and parents with lived experience.” – Laura Shaw, Series Producer, Emmerdale

In the coming weeks Laurel Thomas (Charlotte Bellamy) and her partner Jai (Chris Bisson) will learn she is pregnant. The news takes them both by surprise but they come round to the idea of adding to – and cementing – their blended family. However, on attending the first scan, they’re told the pregnancy isn’t developing as expected and there is the possibility the baby has a chromosomal condition.

Laurel and Jai are offered a CVS (chorionic villus sampling) test to determine chromosomal or genetic disorders in a fetus and agonise over whether to accept it. They eventually decide to have the test and the results show that their baby has Down’s Syndrome.

Forthcoming scenes will depict Laurel and Jai having some very deep emotional conversations before making the very sad decision not to proceed with the pregnancy. The story will continue with their sense of loss, upset and devastation following the termination of the pregnancy.

“Terminating a pregnancy is an emotive subject, but I think as a programme what Emmerdale does brilliantly is portray difficult stories that are important to tell. The statistics tell us that a majority of people faced with similar news resulting from a diagnostic test, do take this decision. So I hope Laurel and Jai’s story will take the audience on the journey of them coming to this conclusion and having some understanding why they do. There are some very powerfully written scenes that I hope will give a fair portrayal of their situation. When I embarked on this storyline I was well aware of the responsibility of the subject matter, but the scripts have been so well written and I think the story is told fairly.” – Charlotte Bellamy

Statistics show that annually around 40,000 women will be told there is a chance that their baby is not developing as expected. Most expectant parents will eventually be reassured, but around 5,000 who find out that their baby has a genetic or physical condition make the painful decision to end the pregnancy every year.

The Emmerdale team felt it was a story that needed to be told and have worked with Antenatal Results and Choices (ARC) to ensure that the storyline is handled sensitively whilst reflecting the reality many couples face.

“We have over 30 years’ experience of supporting women and their partners through the painful circumstances of ending a wanted pregnancy after a prenatal diagnosis. Thousands of parents go through this every year, but it is rarely spoken about. This can lead to bereaved parents feeling very isolated in their grief. We are really pleased that such a popular drama as Emmerdale is tackling this story in such an empathetic and thoughtful way. I have been particularly impressed by how they have valued input from us to help make sure it is as true as possible to the complex reality for couples. It won’t make for easy viewing but will do much to break the silence around this sensitive topic.” – Jane Fisher, Director of Antenatal Results and Choices (ARC)

Emmerdale airs weeknights at 7pm on ITV, STV and UTV, with an extra episode at 8pm every Thursday.
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