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Charlotte Bellamy has spoken out about her Emmerdale story line which sees her character Laurel Thomas and partner Jai Sharma opt to have an abortion after finding out their unborn child has Down's Syndrome.
The soap, which paid tribute to the late Leah Bracknell in September, has received criticism from Down's Syndrome rights campaigners for going ahead with the sensitive storyline.
More than 15,000 people have signed a petition to stop Emmerdale from broadcasting the scenes, with many unhappy with the decision to air it.
However, despite the backlash for the unaired scenes, Charlotte has defended the soap and told fans to watch the episodes before forming judgements.
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Speaking on Tuesday's episode of Lorraine, the actress said: "Of course, it's going to cause huge debate and it's a highly emotive subject.
"But I think it's important to say Emmerdale aren't making judgements. They're not taking sides. We urge people to watch all of these episodes before making judgement," the 47 year old said.
The soap star went on to explain that child actor Harvey Rogerson, who has Down's Syndrome appears on the show regularly as character Leo Goskirk.
"Emmerdale takes a balanced view. We have to remember Leo is a character who has been in the show for 10 years.
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"He is the Down's Syndrome son of Marlon and Rhona. And that has been such a huge positive story, and continues to be, in our show.
"Soaps are at their most potent when they deal with very difficult stories. I think it's really important that soaps don't shy away from them," Charlotte explained.
While preparing for the new storyline, Charlotte said she spoke to real life families so that her characterisation can be as real and honest as possible.
"It was fundamental for me to speak to families who have been affected by this, and it's been humbling, very insightful for me, and helpful. So I can portray this as truthfully as I can," she shared.
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The ITV star, who has been on the soap for 18 years, teased what fans can expect from the storyline and revealed that there is plenty to come from it.
"With this story, this continues. We will see the effects of their decision and it will carry on next year and for a long time."
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