New Prenatal Genome Test is Amazing, But Leads to Abortions

Bioethics   |   Rebecca Taylor   |   Jul 4, 2012   |   10:43AM   |   Washington, DC

I was not going to write about this new development in prenatal genetic testing for a couple of reasons. First because I have written about this technology that allows a peek into the womb from a maternal blood sample before. And second because I feel I have said what I am going to say so many times that I feel some poor dead horse somewhere will get an unnecessary beating.

I am sure you have seen the news already. Scientists at the University of Washington have put together the entire genome of an unborn baby using only a maternal blood sample, with minute fragments of fetal DNA, and a paternal saliva sample. From DiscoveryNews:

In a development scientists are calling a “tour de force,” researchers have reconstructed the genome of a fetus using DNA samples from the parents….

Shendure and colleagues put together the fetal genome using a saliva sample from the father, and a sample of blood plasma from the mother. About 13 percent of the DNA found outside of cells in a pregnant woman’s body belongs to her fetus.

They sequenced the regions of DNA they were aiming for with 98.2 percent accuracy, as confirmed after the baby’s birth with a test on blood taken from the umbilical cord blood.

Shendure estimated that reconstructing the fetal genome cost roughly between $20,000 and $50,000.

But with the cost of genome sequencing expected to come down, and as the technique is further refined, Shendure said, the hope is that researchers can develop a clinical test that detects many diseases noninvasively.

I feel compelled to write about this I am seeing the pro-life side once again slide into the rhetoric of how awful this technique is. It will naturally lead to more abortions and therefore is inherently evil.

If you are at all familiar with my writing on prenatal genetic testing you know what I am going to say. I reject that assumption. What these scientists did was a major achievement. They have proven beyond a doubt the humanness of the life growing inside the womb. An entire genome of an unborn human being without an invasive procedure. Amazing.

But because we live in a society where abortion on demand is prevalent, this is terrible news. The information provided with this technique will likely lead to more abortions for ever more trivial traits. The concerns of all pro-lifers are valid: what will this discovery mean for the safety of life inside the womb?

But is it the genetic testing that is inherently evil or is it the abortion that is inherently evil?



I fear that by focusing on the testing, we are simply ignoring the elephant in the living room. It is the abortion that kills not the testing. I feel it is easier to blame the testing which is a new, fresh target then attack the giant, seemingly immovable troll of the abortion industry.

And if we do reject the prenatal testing that clearly shows that a human being is being formed in the womb, we close that life off from potentially life-saving information.

Let’s be honest. Without abortion, we would be jumping for joy at this new achievement.

We need to not be distracted by the latest prenatal technologies (there will always be another) chasing them each down as the true evil, scattering ourselves and our attention in the process. We need to continue to focus on the real killer: abortion.