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Pre-natal Testing


Prenatal screening tests are used to check the health of the developing baby. These tests are usually done early in a pregnancy and they are intended to show up any abnormalities which indicate that the baby could be born with a disability or a disease.

Prenatal tests cannot identify all the possible problems that any baby might have, but in 2006 British fertility researchers announced that they have increased the number of potential genetic malformations they are able to detect in human embryos from 200 to almost 6,000.

The most common tests check for a higher chance of health problems like Down syndrome and spina bifida.

What’s wrong with this type of screening?

1. Many forms of screening pose serious risks to the health of the unborn baby

Basic ultrasound tests pose no known risks to unborn babies, but procedures such as Pre-implementation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) carry huge risks to the life of the baby as they commonly cause the death of healthy babies through miscarriage.

2. Prenatal screening is commonly carried out in a “search and destroy” capacity

The biggest problem with prenatal screening is that is used as method of seeking out and then destroying tiny human beings who have biological or genetic indicators that MAY result in them developing a disease or disability.

Killing a human being because they MAY have a disease or a disability is not merciful, in fact it is extremely barbaric. What does it say about us as a society that we believe that it is acceptable to seek out and kill people with conditions like Down syndrome before they are born?

3. Prenatal screening is not reliable

Prenatal screening can indicate possible outcomes, but it can never be guaranteed that the baby will go on to develop actual disorders and disabilities.

According to author Melinda Tankard Reist one recent study of 300 foetal autopsies found that the prenatal hypothesis concerning problems was confirmed in only 39% of the cases. This means that the prenatal predictions about the health of these babies was wrong in 61% of the cases and it resulted in the death of 183 babies that did NOT have the conditions their prenatal screening diagnosed them as having.

Is it ever morally acceptable to use prenatal testing?

If the prenatal testing respects the life and integrity of the embryo, it causes no harm and is directed towards safeguarding or healing the unborn baby then it is perfectly acceptable.

Recommended Reading:

What About Prenatal Testing?

An excellent overview of the various prenatal testing methods plus details about how they are being used to seek out and abort disabled babies

What's Lost in Prenatal Testing

A great article by Patricia E. Bauer, who was previously a reporter, editor and bureau chief at the Washington Post and now focuses on writing about medical ethics

Catholic Church Teaching:

Respect for Human Life
 (“Donum Vitae”)

The Catholic teaching document on human embryos, and embryo related medical and scientific issues.
Issued by the Catholic Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on 22 February 1987