Using Abortion to “Treat” Genetic Disease is Totally Backward

National   |   Rebecca Taylor   |   Sep 21, 2012   |   12:12PM   |   Washington, DC

There is a pervasive misconception that prenatal genetic testing along with abortion “cures” or “treats” genetic disease. Since a child is not born with a genetic disease, somehow the disease is “cured.” But killing babies in the womb with a genetic disease doesn’t treat anything. It just gets rid of the people with the disease. The disease itself still remains uncured.

This abortion-centered approach to “treating” genetic disease is completely wrong-headed. If this was the approach taken with cancer, we would round up everyone with cancer, euthanize them, and then say we “treated” or “cured” cancer. Meanwhile the mystery of how to actually beat cancer would remain hidden.

And yet eugenic abortion seems to be the “treatment” course of choice these days. But this approach is not going to work because there will always be people born with genetic disease. You may “eradicate” the defective gene in one population by killing all the fetuses that carry it, but it may pop up somewhere else with an as yet undetected mutation, leaving those born with the disease still without a real treatment.

This story about Tay-Sachs disease is one example. Tay-Sachs is a genetic disease thought to only occur in those of Jewish decent. That was until three babies of Irish decent were born with it in the Philly Area. From CBS News:

Tay-Sachs disease is widely known as a genetic disorder among Jews, but a new study is exploring the risk in another group: The Irish.

Genetic testing is routine for potential parents of Jewish descent to identify the risk for the rare but fatal disorder that often kills children before their 5th birthday.

But after three recent cases of Tay-Sachs turned up in the Irish population in the Philadelphia area, it got Einstein Medical Center’s director of clinical genetics Dr. Adele Schneider wondering.

“It raised the question to me, ‘What is the carrier rate for Tay-Sachs in the Irish population?’ because we always test Jewish people for it, and never test the Irish.”

Einstein is launching a program to screen 1,000 people of with at least three of four Irish grandparents, to try to quantify the risk for Tay-Sachs.



So we can focus on making sure no one with genetic disease is ever born, a completely impossible task, or we can focus on actually curing the disease. Which one seems like the better approach?