Down Syndrome DNA Test Will Lead to More Abortions?

down syndrome

Will the new DNA test for Down syndrome lead to more abortions? What happens when Doctors perfect a way to tell if a child will be born with Down syndrome, could it mean that more babies will be aborted? Pro-life advocates fear that the new DNA test which is being hailed “10 times more accurate than older tests” will lead to more abortions as parents seek out the “perfect” baby. Down syndrome or trisomy 21 is a genetic disorder characteristic by a partial or full third chromosome 21. Typically the syndrome is associated with delays in physical growth, characteristic facial features and some sort of intellectual disability from moderate to severe.

The new test involves DNA sequencing, looking at fetal cells in the mother’s DNA. According to the lead researcher Dr. Diana Bianchi of Tufts Medical Center in Boston, this new way is both more reliable and less invasive and it could cut down on the nearly 200,000 amniocentesis tests done every year. There are several companies that already market the new tests.
down syndrom
While the new test is less invasive and more accurate than older tests it has some in the medical field concerned. Michael Greene, OB-GYN at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston worries that without proper perspective on the tests women will use the positive screening as a basis for terminating what he says would have actually been a normal pregnancy. Some worry that with these new tests more women will be prompted to terminate their pregnancies.

Advocates for people with Down syndrome also have worries associated with the new test. Namely that people with Down syndrome are artists, poets, athlete, they live full and happy lives, says Brian Skotko the co-director of the Down syndrome Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, he is concerned that if the tests become a routine offering then babies with Down syndrome will slowly start to disappear. A study done in 2007 suggested that 92 percent of all Down syndrome pregnancies ended in abortion, a staggering number that some worry will only get higher with the new DNA testing.
down syndrome
The new DNA testing would not be just for Down syndrome, other chromosomal imbalances like Edwards and Patau syndrome could also be tested for using this new method. Pro-life advocates fear that this type of genetic testing could lead to designer babies, with parents opting for abortion if the baby didn’t have certain genetic markers that the parents deemed worthy. Some states have begun ratifying laws that would prevent abortion based on genetic testing. South Dakota last week attempted a bill that would make it illegal to have an abortion because the baby had Down syndrome, the bill didn’t make it out of committee.

The new test can be offered to Mom’s between nine and 16 weeks, however, doctors caution that even a positive result on the test will require further exams including the possibility of amniocentesis to confirm Down syndrome. The latest study has this DNA test with more accurate results than older Down syndrome tests and this has some researchers concerned it will lead to more abortions.

By Rachel Woodruff

The Boston Globe
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33 Responses to "Down Syndrome DNA Test Will Lead to More Abortions?"

  1. Mike Sullvan   March 2, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Here is a disability rights perspective

    • Fledgling Ethicist   March 2, 2014 at 2:45 pm

      Thank you for sharing this – while I don’t necessarily share the positions of this article, it does articulate criminally underrepresented perspectives, and is a fascinating and worthwhile read.

  2. Paul   March 1, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    This quote was just hilarious to me:

    “Brian Skotko the co-director of the Down syndrome Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, he is concerned that if the tests become a routine offering then babies with Down syndrome will slowly start to disappear”

    I never thought there were people who actually advocated for the disease and not just the people who have it.

  3. Arnastu   March 1, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    Having Downs isn’t some kind of traditional subculture that needs to be preserved. Once you’re alive you make do with what you’ve got, but there’s no value in preserving and maintaining a population of Downsians just out of a sort of loyalty to the ones alive today.

    It is not asking for a “perfect” baby to ask for a child without Downs. It profoundly changes everything. If it was purely voluntary, a choice made at the instant before conception, nobody would ever choose to have a Downs baby. However much you love your Downs son or sister, you would never choose that for your child.

  4. r baxter   March 1, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    It should be a crime that no one edits anymore.
    “looking at fetal cells in the mother’s DNA” – jibberish

  5. kate   March 1, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    How about the opposite? If the test is more accurate, then there is likely to be fewer false positives and also fewer unnecessary amniocentesis tests, which carry inherent risks.

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