Note the pretty “terminating the pregnancy” phrase that’s used instead of aborting the baby (or even the usual term used, “fetus”).
This new test will, indeed “change the conversation about abortion.” This news story, including comments from utilitarian bioethicist, Art Caplan, Ph.D., will move the conversation much earlier into the pregnancy and remind us about the risk to healthy children in healthy mothers from tests for genetic markers. It will also stir the debate on late-appearing diseases like Alzheimer’s dementia and breast cancer.
(Who knows, we might be getting closer to tests for behavioral tendencies or even the “gay gene,” if one is ever found.)
Sequenom doesn’t indicate whether there are false positives or what the accuracy is in women who are not at “high risk” for having a Down’s Syndrome child.
The blood test is accurate in detecting Trisomy 21, the genetic chromosomal abnormality that most commonly causes Down syndrome, 99.1 percent of the time as early as 10 weeks into a pregnancy, the San Diego-based company said in a statement. The test, and others that will be able to identify genetic abnormalities early in pregnancies, will alter the debate over abortion, said Art Caplan, director of the center for bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania.
“For many people this test makes it morally, emotionally and psychologically easier to have an abortion,” Caplan said in an interview.
Caplan said future prenatal tests may be able to indicate if the fetus had biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease, or breast cancer, or other diseases. Those tests will raise questions about what issues will trigger potential parents to choose an abortion. A survey published last month in the American Journal of Medical Genetics showed that only 4 percent of parents with Down Syndrome children regretted having them.
“Ethically, we are now starting to see the shift in the issue of what counts as a medical disorder, what’s significant enough to test for, what’s a genetic disability or just a difference,” he said. “Many in the Down syndrome community would say it’s just a difference.”