This is the age of the non-invasive prenatal tests, called NIPTs for short. NIPTs look at minute quantities of fetal DNA floating in a pregnant mother’s blood. With these small pieces of DNA scientists can look for genetic abnormalities in the fetus. The tests are “non-invasive” because they only require a blood sample from mom.
Sequenom, an California company that offers NIPTs, has just announced that they now offer a NIPT that looks at the entire fetal genome, all 46 chromosomes, searching for genetic anomalies, even ones that are so extremely rare. Sequenom calls it MaterniT GENOME.
It was only a matter of time before prenatal genetic testing got to this level of scrutiny. And the earlier the test results – Sequenom’s new test can be performed as early as 10 weeks – the easier it is for parents to terminate any “abnormal” fetuses.
That is the goal, of course, for such a comprehensive genetic screen. It isn’t to provide any needed health care to the growing baby, which should be the focus of any prenatal testing. The end game is to provide information so that parents can choose to get rid of any “imperfections” as quickly as possible.
The UK’s Daily Mail, asks in a recent headline about Sequenom’s MaterniT GENOME, “Would YOU have the baby screening test that could wipe out EVERY genetic defect?”
Let us get something very clear. This screen in no way shape or form “wipes out genetic defects.” In conjunction with abortion, it “wipes out” people with “genetic defects.”
The difference cannot be understated. Aborting every baby with any kind of genetic anomaly does not cure or fix anything. No actual medicine is involved. It is instead a seek and destroy mission.
This approach to “treating” genetic disease is like euthanizing every person with cancer and then announcing that you have “eliminated cancer!” Totally backwards.
The medical community simply has to drop this fallacy that aborting babies with genetic defects somehow cures disease. Abortion no more cures disease than the earth revolves around the moon.
In addition, these screens are incredibly sensitive, increasing the chance of false positives. A recent exposé on NIPTs by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting (NECIR), titled “Oversold and Misunderstood,” is horrifying. While many of the companies offering these new NIPTs, tout that the tests are “99% accurate,” the NECIR uncovered that these screens gave false alarms nearly half the time, especially for rare chromosomal abnormalities like trisomy 13.
A major problem is that the general public and some medical professionals are ignorant of the limitations of prenatal screens and are using NIPTs as diagnostic tests.
What is the difference between a screen and a diagnostic test? A screen is a test given to a general healthy population and usually has high sensitivity so that any possible problems are flagged. Because of the high sensitivity, false positives are more common. Also, screens are not necessarily approved by the FDA. A screen is always supposed to be confirmed with a diagnostic test. A diagnostic test is designed with high specificity for a particular condition flagged by the screen. It is often more invasive and is meant as a tool to make a definitive diagnosis.
Because these new NIPTs are being touted as “99% accurate” and having “near-diagnostic accuracy,” parents are skipping the confirmatory diagnostic tests like CVS and amniocentesis and are going straight for abortion if the screen indicates a genetic problem.
It is always a tragedy when a baby is aborted, but the misapplication of these screens means that healthy babies are being aborted. The NECIR reports:
And at Stanford University, there have been at least three cases of women aborting healthy fetuses that had received a high-risk screen result.
“The worry is women are terminating without really knowing if [the initial test result] is true or not,” said Athena Cherry, professor of pathology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, whose lab examined the cells of the healthy aborted fetuses.
In one of the three Stanford cases, the woman actually obtained a confirmatory test and was told the fetus was fine, but aborted anyway because of her faith in the screening company’s accuracy claims. “She felt it couldn’t be wrong,” Cherry said.
The reality is that these NIPTs are not going away, and frankly I really have no issue with these tests if they were presented to doctor and patient properly.
In an ideal world, abortion would not be an option, but early intervention would. In other words, if a genetic anomaly was indicated in a screen, a more accurate diagnostic test would be performed, and then a healing intervention like gene therapy would be attempted. Obviously gene therapy in utero is not yet a therapeutic option for the unborn, but when it is, these screening tests will be a valuable tool.
The problem lies in our abortion-on-demand culture and medical professionals that mistakenly see death as an appropriate “treatment” for genetic disease.
The most important thing that NIPTs tell us is that if we can detect human genetic disease at 10 weeks gestation, that is definitive proof that a human being is growing inside the womb. Period.
Until our society can wrap its head around that fact, NIPTs will continue to be a evermore dangerous prospect for the unborn.