Genetic Test on 3,500 Anomalies Could Lead to More Abortions

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 7, 2012   |   12:46PM   |   London, England

New genetic testing that could weigh 3,500 different factors related to potential disabilities of unborn children is prompting concerns from pro-life advocates that it could lead to more abortions.

As some parents seek to give birth to only “perfect” children who are supposedly free from any physical or mental disabilities, such genetic testing proves to continue to be controversial. While it helps some parents know what to expect or how to help their children after birth, it lends to extremely high abortion rates of children with any hint of “something wrong.”

As the London Telegraph reports:

A team has been able to predict the whole genetic code of a foetus by taking a blood sample from a woman who was 18 weeks pregnant, and a swab of saliva from the father.

They believe that, in time, the test will become widely available, enabling doctors to screen unborn babies for some 3,500 genetic disorders. At the moment the only genetic disorder routinely tested for on the NHS is Down’s syndrome.

This is a large-scale genetic defect caused by having an extra copy of a bundle of DNA, called a chromosome. Other such faults are sometimes tested for, but usually only when there is a risk of inheriting them from a parent.

Dr Jay Shendure, the lead scientist, said: “This work opens up the possibility that we will be able to scan the whole genome of the foetus for more than 3,000 single-gene disorders through a single, non-invasive test.”

Jacob Kitzman, who worked on the project, added: “The improved resolution is like going from being able to see that two books are stuck together to being able to notice one word mis-spelled on a page.”

However, the newspaper quoted Josephine Quintavalle, founder of the Pro-Life Alliance, who put the pro-life concerns into perspective:



“One always hopes, vainly, that in utero testing will be for the benefit of the unborn child,” she said. “But, whilst this new test may not itself be invasive, given our past track record, it is difficult to imagine that this new test will not lead to more abortions.”

Anthony Ozimic of SPUC echoed those worries, telling LifeNews in an email: “The science-fiction scenario of the film Gattaca, in which babies are graded at birth according to predictions of future health, is becoming fact. Society can reverse this nightmare scenario by resolving to put human beings above so-called scientific progress.”