Testing unborn babies for 3,500 genetic disorders

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.”

via Unborn babies could be tested for 3,500 genetic faults – Telegraph.

HT:  Grace

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Michael B.

    If one of these fetuses with a genetic disorder is killed by abortion, that’s evil, as are the people who would allow it, but if it develops into a newborn and dies because he can’t get health care coverage because we don’t believe in universal health care, then that’s unfortunate, but unavoidable.

  • Michael B.

    If one of these fetuses with a genetic disorder is killed by abortion, that’s evil, as are the people who would allow it, but if it develops into a newborn and dies because he can’t get health care coverage because we don’t believe in universal health care, then that’s unfortunate, but unavoidable.

  • fws

    So what is the point of the article?
    Should we ban such tests?

    Let’s follow the logic:
    Sex will lead to more abortions.
    Therefore…..

  • fws

    So what is the point of the article?
    Should we ban such tests?

    Let’s follow the logic:
    Sex will lead to more abortions.
    Therefore…..

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    What Frank said.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    What Frank said.

  • Booklover

    Will there also be testing for character trait disorders?

  • Booklover

    Will there also be testing for character trait disorders?

  • Mary

    The old phrase “But I was born this way, it’s not a choice I made” will soon be followed by “what were your parents thinking, why didn’t they take care of that in utero?” You know-by aborting the damaged baby. Or the government health care system telling the Mom and Dad who decide to carry a “damaged” baby to term, “Um, No we won’t be covering any medical expenses, too expensive for our budget, and you could have taken care of this much more cheaply with a timely abortion.”
    Slippery Slope? Impossible you say? How about all of the wrongful birth lawsuits hitting the court system already.
    Sure, don’t draw a line, people will just go around it and find a way to do what they want.

  • Mary

    The old phrase “But I was born this way, it’s not a choice I made” will soon be followed by “what were your parents thinking, why didn’t they take care of that in utero?” You know-by aborting the damaged baby. Or the government health care system telling the Mom and Dad who decide to carry a “damaged” baby to term, “Um, No we won’t be covering any medical expenses, too expensive for our budget, and you could have taken care of this much more cheaply with a timely abortion.”
    Slippery Slope? Impossible you say? How about all of the wrongful birth lawsuits hitting the court system already.
    Sure, don’t draw a line, people will just go around it and find a way to do what they want.

  • fws

    Mary @ 5

    There is no one who ever argues that they have no choice over the actions they take.

    ” I was born this way ” is not an argument that has anything to do with morality. Morality is about what we do, not who we are.

    The terms “moral” and “immoral” are determined strictly and only by what one does. Actions. It is actually immoral to judge persons according to who they are. This is true regardless of whether who they are is by choice or birth.

    It is neither moral nor immoral to be mormon or black, or atheist or a christian. Or even to be Lutheran vs Evangelical or Calvinist. This is precisely why it would be wrong to enforce laws about religion or homosexuality. Same thing as to morality.

    The error here, then, is on the part of those who say that homosexuality is morally wrong. “Abnormal” or “defective” does not equal “sin” or “immoral”. Think cancer or blindness here.

    And a condition or even a choice, apart from actions that negatively affect one’s neighbor has nothing at all to do with morality.

  • fws

    Mary @ 5

    There is no one who ever argues that they have no choice over the actions they take.

    ” I was born this way ” is not an argument that has anything to do with morality. Morality is about what we do, not who we are.

    The terms “moral” and “immoral” are determined strictly and only by what one does. Actions. It is actually immoral to judge persons according to who they are. This is true regardless of whether who they are is by choice or birth.

    It is neither moral nor immoral to be mormon or black, or atheist or a christian. Or even to be Lutheran vs Evangelical or Calvinist. This is precisely why it would be wrong to enforce laws about religion or homosexuality. Same thing as to morality.

    The error here, then, is on the part of those who say that homosexuality is morally wrong. “Abnormal” or “defective” does not equal “sin” or “immoral”. Think cancer or blindness here.

    And a condition or even a choice, apart from actions that negatively affect one’s neighbor has nothing at all to do with morality.

  • fws

    Mary,

    So I am suggesting that you are drawing a moral line in precisely the wrong place.

    If the government, tomorrow, were to legalize the killing of homosexuals or new born infants or blacks or Lutherans, or legalize theft ( as in absorbitant interest rates being declared legal…) it would have no necessary moral consequence.

    It WOULD have a moral consequence if the government demanded that these things be done. An example of this would be China’s demand that couples abort.
    But even that has no necessary moral consequence. A christian w0uld disobey that law and would also suffer the legal consequence of disobedience submissively.

    See the difference?

  • fws

    Mary,

    So I am suggesting that you are drawing a moral line in precisely the wrong place.

    If the government, tomorrow, were to legalize the killing of homosexuals or new born infants or blacks or Lutherans, or legalize theft ( as in absorbitant interest rates being declared legal…) it would have no necessary moral consequence.

    It WOULD have a moral consequence if the government demanded that these things be done. An example of this would be China’s demand that couples abort.
    But even that has no necessary moral consequence. A christian w0uld disobey that law and would also suffer the legal consequence of disobedience submissively.

    See the difference?

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Michael B., you make a good point.

    Also, what if the fetus develops into a newborn and dies of starvation because we don’t believe in universal food distribution?

    Or, what if the fetus develops into a newborn and dies of exposure because we don’t believe in a universal clothing allowance?

    Or, what if the fetus develops into a newborn and dies of electrocution by sticking a hairpin in an electrical socket while being left at home alone while the parents are at work because we don’t believe in universal baby sitter service?

    Or, what if the fetus develops into a newborn and dies at the hands of an abusive foster care parent, having been placed in foster care because the parents couldn’t afford to care for the kid because we don’t believe in universal high wages?

    The ways a fetus could develop into a newborn and die are endless. My gosh, we sure need the government to mandate a LOT of things.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Michael B., you make a good point.

    Also, what if the fetus develops into a newborn and dies of starvation because we don’t believe in universal food distribution?

    Or, what if the fetus develops into a newborn and dies of exposure because we don’t believe in a universal clothing allowance?

    Or, what if the fetus develops into a newborn and dies of electrocution by sticking a hairpin in an electrical socket while being left at home alone while the parents are at work because we don’t believe in universal baby sitter service?

    Or, what if the fetus develops into a newborn and dies at the hands of an abusive foster care parent, having been placed in foster care because the parents couldn’t afford to care for the kid because we don’t believe in universal high wages?

    The ways a fetus could develop into a newborn and die are endless. My gosh, we sure need the government to mandate a LOT of things.

  • DonS

    FWS @ 2: No, we should not ban these tests. But we most certainly should not mandate that they be covered by insurance, or paid for with public funds.

  • DonS

    FWS @ 2: No, we should not ban these tests. But we most certainly should not mandate that they be covered by insurance, or paid for with public funds.

  • Jon

    How many babies do you know that die on the street corner outside a hospital because they “can’t get healthcare insurance?”

  • Jon

    How many babies do you know that die on the street corner outside a hospital because they “can’t get healthcare insurance?”

  • fws

    JON @ 10

    I personally can’t claim as acquaintences or friends babies who have died on a street corner near a hospital. Whadda question!

    But I know of quite a few families who have lost their children because they could not get adequate medical care here in Brasil. And doctors and nurses I know who work in the decrepit hospitals here could tell you stories of the inadequate medical care they would get in hospitals that would also kill them.

  • fws

    JON @ 10

    I personally can’t claim as acquaintences or friends babies who have died on a street corner near a hospital. Whadda question!

    But I know of quite a few families who have lost their children because they could not get adequate medical care here in Brasil. And doctors and nurses I know who work in the decrepit hospitals here could tell you stories of the inadequate medical care they would get in hospitals that would also kill them.

  • rlewer

    FWs:

    We are not in Brazil. We do have universal food health care and health care for children in poverty. I know because my great granddaughter receives it. Are we also to provide a “universal” parent in the form of the Federal government for everyone’s possible need?

    3500 defects to be tested for. Could anyone of us pass all of these tests? The truth is that we are all born “defective.”

  • rlewer

    FWs:

    We are not in Brazil. We do have universal food health care and health care for children in poverty. I know because my great granddaughter receives it. Are we also to provide a “universal” parent in the form of the Federal government for everyone’s possible need?

    3500 defects to be tested for. Could anyone of us pass all of these tests? The truth is that we are all born “defective.”

  • Grace

    Have you left God out?

    – does HE know who is in the womb? – what this unborn infant will be? Whether the child will be born blind, without hearing, unable to talk, autism, cleft palate, heart problem, cerebral palsy, or any number of problems. God chooses, man interferes, bringing forth sin.

    One of my friends in high school, who attended our church had a difficult learning problem, of which she attended “special classes” — I’m not going into the whole story, but my friend (I’ll refer to her as Mary) had a rough go of it, not just in H.S. Several years later, she was attacked by 5 men. My father was called at once, it was heartbreaking.

    The last time I talked to Mary she was taking the bus to the courthouse steps, and there she was trying to raise money to help women who were pregnant. She is very much PRO-LIFE. Mary taught me so much. I can’t talk about her, or write about her without weeping. She had several brothers, both with the same problems she had. Her younger brother worked in a high end department store as a janitor. God put Mary and her family in our lives for a reason; for me Mary was a blessing, one I will never forget.

  • Grace

    Have you left God out?

    – does HE know who is in the womb? – what this unborn infant will be? Whether the child will be born blind, without hearing, unable to talk, autism, cleft palate, heart problem, cerebral palsy, or any number of problems. God chooses, man interferes, bringing forth sin.

    One of my friends in high school, who attended our church had a difficult learning problem, of which she attended “special classes” — I’m not going into the whole story, but my friend (I’ll refer to her as Mary) had a rough go of it, not just in H.S. Several years later, she was attacked by 5 men. My father was called at once, it was heartbreaking.

    The last time I talked to Mary she was taking the bus to the courthouse steps, and there she was trying to raise money to help women who were pregnant. She is very much PRO-LIFE. Mary taught me so much. I can’t talk about her, or write about her without weeping. She had several brothers, both with the same problems she had. Her younger brother worked in a high end department store as a janitor. God put Mary and her family in our lives for a reason; for me Mary was a blessing, one I will never forget.

  • Jonathan

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_infant_mortality_rate

    The US is 49th in infant mortality, according to the CIA book; about 34th according to the UN.

    When will ‘pro life’ include care for those who are born?

  • Jonathan

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_infant_mortality_rate

    The US is 49th in infant mortality, according to the CIA book; about 34th according to the UN.

    When will ‘pro life’ include care for those who are born?

  • http://schn00dles.wordpress.com/ Carl Nelson

    I’m thinking that the only reason to take a DNA sample from a foetus would be because it is believed to be viable. If the foetus is viable then it would seem to have all the rights granted to a human being. So, perhaps with parental consent this test could be performed. But since performing the test acknowledges viability, then an abortion would be illegal.

  • http://schn00dles.wordpress.com/ Carl Nelson

    I’m thinking that the only reason to take a DNA sample from a foetus would be because it is believed to be viable. If the foetus is viable then it would seem to have all the rights granted to a human being. So, perhaps with parental consent this test could be performed. But since performing the test acknowledges viability, then an abortion would be illegal.

  • Michael B.

    @Grace

    “Have you left God out? – does HE know who is in the womb? – what this unborn infant will be? ”

    But isn’t God smart enough to know which fetuses will get aborted? If God “opens and closes the womb”, isn’t it cruel of him to put a child in a place where he knows it will get aborted? Of course, maybe it isn’t so cruel, since we believe in infant salvation, and I guess the baby automatically goes to heaven. Theology certainly makes abortion more interesting.

  • Michael B.

    @Grace

    “Have you left God out? – does HE know who is in the womb? – what this unborn infant will be? ”

    But isn’t God smart enough to know which fetuses will get aborted? If God “opens and closes the womb”, isn’t it cruel of him to put a child in a place where he knows it will get aborted? Of course, maybe it isn’t so cruel, since we believe in infant salvation, and I guess the baby automatically goes to heaven. Theology certainly makes abortion more interesting.

  • Grace

    Michael @ 16

    “But isn’t God smart enough to know which fetuses will get aborted? If God “opens and closes the womb”, isn’t it cruel of him to put a child in a place where he knows it will get aborted? “

    Man has FREE WILL.

    I KNOW we have free will, if we didn’t we couldn’t “fall away” or go back into sin “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
    1 Corinthians 10:14

    Escaping temptation or declining would be a ‘free will’ act. If you are tempted to do evil, and you choose not to, is that not ‘free will’? – if instead you go ahead, knowing it is wrong, is that not your ‘free will’ to sin, when God has given you a way to “escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” ? If you don’t believe the passage above is a choice to escape, then you are denying God’s promise.

    12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

    13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

    14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

    15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

    16 Do not err, my beloved brethren. James 1

    This passage is proof that man can be tempted,….. drawn away of his own lust, it is a ‘choice to do good or evil, ie; FREE WILL.

    One of mans biggest mistakes is believing he doesn’t have FREE WILL, it gives him the false idea that he doesn’t have any control over his actions. Everyone decides whether or not to run a red light, knowing if they do, there is a good chance they will either get a big ticket, or they will cause a terrible accident.

    If people didn’t have FREE WILL there would be no reason to incarcerate anyone for any deed, including murder, rape, robbery molesting a child, etc., it will wouldn’t be the individuals fault, they didn’t have FREE WILL.

    Why counsel an individual, lets say,.. regarding drugs, how dangerous it is, and the results. Why bother, the individual doesn’t have FREE WILL?

  • Grace

    Michael @ 16

    “But isn’t God smart enough to know which fetuses will get aborted? If God “opens and closes the womb”, isn’t it cruel of him to put a child in a place where he knows it will get aborted? “

    Man has FREE WILL.

    I KNOW we have free will, if we didn’t we couldn’t “fall away” or go back into sin “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
    1 Corinthians 10:14

    Escaping temptation or declining would be a ‘free will’ act. If you are tempted to do evil, and you choose not to, is that not ‘free will’? – if instead you go ahead, knowing it is wrong, is that not your ‘free will’ to sin, when God has given you a way to “escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” ? If you don’t believe the passage above is a choice to escape, then you are denying God’s promise.

    12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

    13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

    14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

    15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

    16 Do not err, my beloved brethren. James 1

    This passage is proof that man can be tempted,….. drawn away of his own lust, it is a ‘choice to do good or evil, ie; FREE WILL.

    One of mans biggest mistakes is believing he doesn’t have FREE WILL, it gives him the false idea that he doesn’t have any control over his actions. Everyone decides whether or not to run a red light, knowing if they do, there is a good chance they will either get a big ticket, or they will cause a terrible accident.

    If people didn’t have FREE WILL there would be no reason to incarcerate anyone for any deed, including murder, rape, robbery molesting a child, etc., it will wouldn’t be the individuals fault, they didn’t have FREE WILL.

    Why counsel an individual, lets say,.. regarding drugs, how dangerous it is, and the results. Why bother, the individual doesn’t have FREE WILL?

  • PinonCoffee

    I’d be more impressed with the magic test for 3500 diseases if it came with cures for them. It’s kind of cool, but not particularly helpful at this stage. No, I don’t think I’d ban it…

    just ignore it until medicine catches up. I mean, we’re going to keep the baby anyway. And I think other people ought to keep their babies too. If the test is for something healable, well then that’s worth looking into.

    As it is, this test makes me think of all the dystopian sci-fi I’ve ever read. Government health care is a lousy idea, and the more tech it has to work with, the lousier it gets. ::insert doomy music::

  • PinonCoffee

    I’d be more impressed with the magic test for 3500 diseases if it came with cures for them. It’s kind of cool, but not particularly helpful at this stage. No, I don’t think I’d ban it…

    just ignore it until medicine catches up. I mean, we’re going to keep the baby anyway. And I think other people ought to keep their babies too. If the test is for something healable, well then that’s worth looking into.

    As it is, this test makes me think of all the dystopian sci-fi I’ve ever read. Government health care is a lousy idea, and the more tech it has to work with, the lousier it gets. ::insert doomy music::

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @14

    The US actually counts all the newborns who die. Lots of other countries don’t. Some don’t count those that die if they are below a certain gestational age. So even though they were born alive, they aren’t counted.

    Also, the lowest country on that list had an infant mortality rate of 0.18% vs. the US at 0.59%. That is right. The difference is less than a half of a percent.

    Anyway, what is the theoretical minimum infant mortality rate?

    Six per thousand hardly sounds like some gross public health failure.

    Forty two countries have rates more than 10x higher than the US, but we won’t be hearing any criticism of them for their failures.

    Okay, many of the 3500 conditions are at least treatable and some conditions are greatly improved by early detection. So, I think the tests are good. If some misuse the info, well, what’s new?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @14

    The US actually counts all the newborns who die. Lots of other countries don’t. Some don’t count those that die if they are below a certain gestational age. So even though they were born alive, they aren’t counted.

    Also, the lowest country on that list had an infant mortality rate of 0.18% vs. the US at 0.59%. That is right. The difference is less than a half of a percent.

    Anyway, what is the theoretical minimum infant mortality rate?

    Six per thousand hardly sounds like some gross public health failure.

    Forty two countries have rates more than 10x higher than the US, but we won’t be hearing any criticism of them for their failures.

    Okay, many of the 3500 conditions are at least treatable and some conditions are greatly improved by early detection. So, I think the tests are good. If some misuse the info, well, what’s new?


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