Medical researchers have developed a non-invasive test that can potentially identify not just Downs but thousands of other genetic disorders. That could mean thousands of other excuses for abortions. And thousands of reasons for a government-run health care system to–someday–require them.
A team has been able to predict the whole genetic code of a foetus by taking a blood sample from a woman who was 18 weeks pregnant, and a swab of saliva from the father.
They believe that, in time, the test will become widely available, enabling doctors to screen unborn babies for some 3,500 genetic disorders.
At the moment the only genetic disorder routinely tested for on the NHS is Down’s syndrome.
This is a large-scale genetic defect caused by having an extra copy of a bundle of DNA, called a chromosome.
Other such faults are sometimes tested for, but usually only when there is a risk of inheriting them from a parent.
By contrast, the scientists say their new test would identify far more conditions, caused by genetic errors.However, they warned it raised “many ethical questions” because the results could be used as a basis for abortion.
These concerns were last night amplified by pro-life campaigners, who said widespread use of such a test would “inevitably lead to more abortions”. . . .
As well as testing for thousands of genetic defects, the scientists said their test could give a wealth of information on the baby’s future health.However, they warned: “The less tangible implication of incorporating this level of information into pre-natal decision-making raises many ethical questions that must be considered carefully within the scientific community and on a societal level.
“As in other areas of clinical genetics, our capacity to generate data is outstripping our ability to interpret it in ways that are useful to physicians and patients.”
Josephine Quintavalle, founder of the Pro-Life Alliance, put it more baldly.
She said: “One always hopes, vainly, that in utero testing will be for the benefit of the unborn child.
“But, whilst this new test may not itself be invasive, given our past track record, it is difficult to imagine that this new test will not lead to more abortions.”