Study: Genetic Screening Prompts Abortions, Proper Counseling Cuts Them

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 19, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Study: Genetic Screening Prompts Abortions, Proper Counseling Cuts Them Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 19,

Washington, DC ( — A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that when couples use genetic screening to test for a specific disease, the number of abortions increases. However, when they meet with an expert on the disease and find out it’s treatable, abortions are reduced.

The study involved a treatable illness found among Ashkenazi Jews in Israel and it questions whether genetic screening has gone too far by wrongly influencing a couple to have an abortion.

Over the eight year period of the study, about 25 percent of the unborn children found to have the gene that causes Gaucher disease were victims of abortions.

Gaucher Disease is the most common lipid-storage disorder, and is the most common genetic disease affecting Jewish people of Eastern European ancestry.

It results from a specific enzyme deficiency in the body, caused by a genetic mutation received from both parents. The disease course is quite variable, ranging from no outward symptoms to severe disability and death.

Despite the abortions, half of the unborn children killed will never experience symptoms of the disease and the rest can lead normal lives with proper medical treatment.

The study found that only 8 percent of the couples who met with a Gaucher expert and had this information explained to them chose abortion. All the couples who did not have the meeting decided to have abortions.

That disparity leads pro-life advocates to consider asking lawmakers to require meetings with experts to help reduce the number of abortions.

Dr. William Wilcox, of the Medical Genetics Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, treats Gaucher patients.

Wilcox wasn’t involved in the study of the 29,000 Israelis but told the Los Angeles Times that the results are concerning. He said he thought genetic testing shouldn’t be performed as routinely as it is now because it so often leads to abortions.

"Personally, that horrifies me," he said. "Why is it there? Because we can do it. But just because we can doesn’t mean we should."