Only Way Is Essex star Gemma Collins sparked fierce debate today after revealing she terminated her pregnancy because her baby was intersex and ‘not going to be right’. 

Speaking during a candid interview on the Everything I Know About Me podcast, the former TOWIE star broke down in tears claiming doctors advised her to have the abortion in her 20s because her baby was a ‘hermaphrodite’.

Hermaphrodite is considered an outdated and offensive term for people intersex. In modern society, the term ‘people with differences in sex development’ (DSD) is used.

The umbrella term covers 40-plus rare conditions which develop in the womb and give people unusually arranged or developed genitals. 

Sometimes the internal anatomy is rearranged. For example, a boy may be born with a penis but have internal, rather than regular external, testicles.

The vast majority of intersex people live perfectly normal and healthy lives. 

Gemma Collins has revealed she was advised to terminate a pregnancy after learning her unborn baby was a 'hermaphrodite' - [the correct term is intersex]

Gemma Collins has revealed she was advised to terminate a pregnancy after learning her unborn baby was a ‘hermaphrodite’ – [the correct term is intersex]

Listen to our shocking interview with Gemma Collins on our podcast, Everything I Know About Me: 

Gemma told the podcast: ‘You can imagine I didn’t know what the word was. I had to look it up. I’d never been taught about hermaphrodites. 

‘I didn’t know what they were I didn’t know they existed. So that was a real shock.’ 

She added: ‘Then they advised me you need to have a termination because this baby is not going to be right.

‘In a single instant, I learned that I’d been carrying a baby and lost it, meaning that once again I found my longstanding dreams of motherhood shattered into pieces.’ 

Intersex adults, as well social media users, claimed they were dismayed by Gemma’s experience. 

What is an intersex baby?

Intersex is an umbrella term for multiple of conditions that mean a person’s sexual anatomy is different than most other people’s.

Also called ‘differences in sex development’ (DSD) these are rare conditions that develop in the womb.

They are normally spotted at birth but can occasionally only come to light later in life during puberty.

They involve a combination of genes, hormones and the layout and appearance of reproductive anatomy like the genitals.

For example, a girl might be born with a long clitoris but a closed vagina due to a hormonal condition.

In other cases, a boy may be born with a penis but have a womb and internal, rather regular external, testicles.

Some of these traits are linked to having extra chromosome like Klinefelter syndrome.

There is some evidence that some DSDs can run in families but in most cases, there is no obvious cause.

Intersex people have sometimes been called hermaphrodites, in reference to a half-man half-woman mythical figure from Greek mythology called Hermaphroditus.

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Intersex charities say the term should be avoided as it misleading, scientifically inaccurate for the variety of conditions covered by DSDs and stigmatising.

People with DSDs have sometimes been subjected to shocking medical treatment.

So-called ‘corrective surgeries’ were sometimes used to ‘fix’ babies’ genitalia to better match one sex.

For example, male babies born without a penis, a DSD called aphallia, have sometimes been subjected to ‘feminisation surgery’ to create an artificial vagina.

This has resulted, historically, in people being raised as girls only to grow facial hair and a deeper voice when their male puberty starts.

DSD charities have also criticised this ‘corrective ‘approach as it usually driven by societal expectations rather than medical benefit for the patient.

People with very specific DSDs do need medical care however, as there can be knock-on effects to other aspects of their health.

However, the vast majority do not need any medical attention.

How common DSDs are vary by type, with more than 40 individual conditions covered by the term.

A rough estimate is that 1.7 per cent of the population, about one in 50 people are born with a type of DSD.

That’s equivalent to about 114,000 people in the UK.

Alyssa Ball, 28, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, told MailOnline that it was unfair not to give an intersex baby a ‘fighting chance in the world’.

She was born with testicles inside of her body instead of ovaries. Her parents found out she was intersex at just three weeks old.

Speaking to this website about Gemma’s story she said: ‘I think it’s really unfair to not be able to give an intersex baby a fighting chance in the world.

‘They will be able to be a happy, healthy adult, given the right resources, community, support and the right health care providers.’

Alyssa, a yoga teacher, even argued that wanting to terminate a pregnancy on the basis that the child was intersex no different than having an abortion based on a child’s hair colour. 

‘Hopefully we wouldn’t terminate a pregnancy just because we wanted a baby that was born with brown hair or blonde hair or whatever external thing,’ she said.

‘The fact that a baby is born with an intersex variation doesn’t inhibit their ability to love and to be a human with the full capacity of everything that that entails.’ 

Alyssa, who was only told she was intersex by her parents when she turned 11, added that, despite being bullied as child over her condition, she wouldn’t change herself and loves the way she is. 

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‘I don’t wish that my mom terminated her pregnancy, even with all the bullying that I’ve gone through, I wouldn’t trade it to not be here,’ she said.

Emma Lynn Dowd, who found out she was intersex when she was 18 years old, with both ovarian and testicular tissue on the outside and internally, said it was ‘hurtful’ and ‘selfish’ to terminate intersex pregnancies. 

Emma, 45, from Connecticut, was born with both male and female body parts but only discovered so at 18. 

During her childhood she was raised as a boy, encouraged to play with footballs and toy cars and take on other hobbies that are often considered stereotypically male by society.

But when puberty hit, she had a period and started growing breasts at 18, which revealed she was intersex.  

Emma told MailOnline it ‘hurts’ to hear people were willing to terminate pregnancies on the basis someone is intersex.

‘Just let the child grow, be themselves and don’t call them a freak or treat them like one, as they’ll see that,’ she said. ‘Try to embrace them for who they are.’

Social media users were also dismayed by Gemma’s account.

One, author Nicole Czarnecki, called for the medic who advised the termination to be charged ‘with a hate crime’.

‘Whoever perform the abortion for Gemma Collins needs to be charged with a hate crime,’ she wrote. ‘The child was aborted solely based on his or her intersex status.’

Intersex babies account for roughly one in every 2,000 births in the UK.

Both intersex and DSD are umbrella terms representing over 40 individual conditions that can vary in medical significance. 

They all impact a person’s sexual anatomy in different ways, but all develop in the womb. 

Most physically obvious DSDs are spotted shortly after a baby is born or through an ultrasound in pregnancy, with differences in external genitalia spotted. 

Non-invasive prenatal tests, like those offered to mothers-to-be on the NHS at 11 to 14 and again at 20 weeks, may show a baby a baby to have high odds of a chromosomal variation linked to being intersex.

If these tests come back indicating a baby potentially has a genetic or chromosomal condition a further test, called amniocentesis, which examines the fluid surrounding the baby in the womb, is also offered as an additional check. 

However, the intersex conditions are sometimes only uncovered later in life like during puberty, when trying to have a baby or even after death during autopsy. 

While some conditions can run in families, in most cases what exactly triggers a DSD is unknown.

Alyssa Ball, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania , said she thought it was unfair not to be able to give an intersex baby a 'fighting chance in the world'

Alyssa Ball, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania , said she thought it was unfair not to be able to give an intersex baby a ‘fighting chance in the world’

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Alyssa that despite being bullied, she wouldn't change herself and loves the way that she is. Above: The 28-year-old pictured at the Grand Canyon Water Park

Alyssa that despite being bullied, she wouldn’t change herself and loves the way that she is. Above: The 28-year-old pictured at the Grand Canyon Water Park

Many DSD conditions don’t have any ongoing medical issues, apart from their sexual anatomy looking or being arranged differently than normal.

However, some conditions do require ongoing monitoring or healthcare. 

Worldwide, up to 1.7 per cent of people have intersex traits — roughly the same proportion of the population who have red hair — according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The British charity DSD Families estimates that around 130 babies born in the UK each year need investigations for potential intersex conditions. 

In the UK, medics can advise women terminate pregnancy on a variety of medical grounds. 

Emma Lynn Dowd (pictured), from Connecticut, believes it is 'selfish' to terminate a pregnancy because the baby is intersex

Emma Lynn Dowd (pictured), from Connecticut, believes it is ‘selfish’ to terminate a pregnancy because the baby is intersex 

Emma (pictured above in 2018 before transitioning into a woman) believed she was male for nearly two decades

Emma (pictured above in 2018 before transitioning into a woman) believed she was male for nearly two decades

Social media users were also dismayed by Collin's account with one calling it a 'hate crime' on the part of the medic involved

Social media users were also dismayed by Collin’s account with one calling it a ‘hate crime’ on the part of the medic involved 

These broadly fall under two categories, when there is a risk to the mother’s life by continuing the pregnancy and if scans or tests have shown the unborn child has a serious developmental anomaly.

Whether this will be recommended depends on the very specific nature of the case and the parents’ wishes.

There are multiple conditions unborn children can have that might result in this kind of termination, such as serious problems with how the heart or bones have developed in the womb or that they have a severe disability. 

Some of the most well-known conditions that can be covered by this include genetic conditions like Down’s syndrome, Patau’s syndrome and Edwards’ syndrome.

Abortion rules in Britain mean women can request a termination up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, but it is up to medics if it granted.

Terminations can still be carried out after this 24-week period in very limited circumstances like the medical ones previously mentioned.

Down’s syndrome inclusion in this list is controversial and there have multiple calls to stop people terminating pregnancy after 24 weeks for this reason. 

 Listen to Gemma Collins on the Mail’s Everything I Know About Me podcast on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. New episodes released every Thursday, with the first two of Gemma’s episodes available now. 

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