Sunday, June 22, 2008

Risk Free?

The Times of London breathlessly reports on a new test for Down's Syndrome that can detect the genetic anomaly early and thus provide a "risk-free blood test." Sounds good. But for whom is the test really "risk-free"?

Think about it. What risk does a Down's baby pose to the mother beyond that of a "normal" pregnancy? Absolutely none. The risk being referred to here is to the baby who, without such a blood test, has previously been subjected to the dangers inherent in amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS), both of which pose a physical risk to the pregnancy. So, given the newly found improvement in technology, the news sounds good. After all say the proponents:
It would have the positive effect of saving normal foetuses from invasive, and potentially dangerous procedures such as amniocentesis. This would also alleviate the stress of pregnant women going through prenatal testing.
But when it comes to the intersection of technology and human life, there is always more to the story. Consider why anyone is doing fetal testing for Down's in the first place. I offer this caution based on experience.

When my wife was pregnant with our first child in 1987, she was given a serum-based alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) test that returned a borderline high result. This prompted what was then called a Level 2 Ultrasound to determine the source of the "abnormally" high reading. Being first-time, naive parents, and because we had not requested any of these tests, we never questioned the process because we assumed that this was standard operating procedure. Along the way we were told that our baby had a decent probability of being born with spinabifida, neurological disorders (to include brain malformation), Down's and several other scary outcomes. I will never forget the feeling of shock and confusion we both felt when the doctor, after going over the combined test results with us, leaned forward and asked, "So do you want to continue with the pregnancy or terminate?"

The second option had never occurred to us. We declined further testing and my wife refused to ever submit to an AFP test for any of our other 4 kids. Sadly some, given the same situation and alternatives, may have chosen to "terminate." In doing so, they would have "terminated" a perfectly normal, happy, healthy (and, I might add without bias, highly intelligent) child.

I don't share this story to promote my own moral superiority to anyone. At that point in my life I had not even bothered to consider the moral implications of the pro-life position, nor could I have possibly offered an intellectually defense of our decision beyond, "It just doesn't seem right to me." If anything I owe the steadfast wisdom of my wife the credit for that one. My only point is that these newly discovered "risk-free" tests are anything but risk free to the baby. They offer nothing but another means to rationalize the decision to abort.

There is only one reason to undergo a prenatal test for Down's Syndrome and that is to do away with the child who fails the test. If you don't believe me, listen to the thoughts of a Times readers who offered their opinions on the matter:

The earlier this conditions is recognized the better, and if the parents decide the bundle of cells - for that is what it is before 16 weeks - isn't to their liking, it is their decision. End of debate. After sixteen weeks, when the foetus can be supported independently, that's different. ChrisY, Santa Cruz, US

Children with Down's suffer for their disability as do their parents and thus ideally should not be born ... As the purpose of civilisation is (hopefully) the prevention of suffering, I believe that a viable means to prevent disabled birth of any sort can only be a good thing. Haseeb, London, UK
Yes, there are those who are doing nothing but mentally preparing themselves for the challenges that would come with introducing a Down's Syndrome child into the world. I would not presume to question that motive. Unfortunately, I believe that those folks are in the minority. These tests are not much more than a seek and destroy mission for pro-abortionists. This will do nothing but increase the number of abortions performed by those who don't need any more prompting than they already have, and for those who may never have considered it otherwise.

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