Prenatal Testing and Abortion–Is it Possible to Be Biased but not Judgmental?

I released an ebook (What Every Woman Needs to Know About Prenatal Testing) two weeks ago about prenatal testing. It covers my own experience of prenatal testing as well as providing information for women who are trying to figure out their own approach to testing. It’s a combination of story, facts, and reflections that I hope will serve as a helpful resource for all pregnant women. As I wrote, I had two realizations. One, I wanted to present, without judgment, all the options available for women, which includes aborting fetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome. Two, I am sad that so many women choose to abort fetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome. In the book’s conclusion, I try to explain how it is that I am biased but not judgmental:

I set out to write a nonjudgmental book to provide women and their partners with a way to think about prenatal testing before being offered it. I hope I’ve achieved that goal at least in some small way. But it has probably become clear that I also approach this project with a very particular bias. At the end of the day, I hope that many women will choose to continue their pregnancies even in the face of disabilities. I also hope that our culture will become one in which making that choice is more and more possible, with protection for families with children who have disabilities, including greater social supports, educational options, and health care provisions.

Tomorrow we will hear from a mother who chose to terminate her pregnancy after a diagnosis of Down syndrome, and I hope that readers will recognize that her reasons draw both from personal concerns and from concerns about the culture in which her child would have been growing up. I also hope that whatever our biases, we will approach one another’s stories with grace and compassion.

Did I Come Home in a Box?
Politics, Down Syndrome, and What I’m Reading
I Don’t Love Valentine’s Day, and That’s Okay
My Questions About the Ethics of Embryo Selection
About Amy Julia Becker

Amy Julia Becker writes and speaks about family, faith, disability, and culture. A graduate of Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary, she is the author of Penelope Ayers: A Memoir, A Good and Perfect Gift (Bethany House), and Why I Am Both Spiritual and Religious (Patheos Press).


  1. Maybe you could write about prenatal screening and Down syndrome without mentioning abortion? It is sort of demeaning to people with Down syndrome.

  2. Mike, Though I appreciate your perspective and I agree that selective abortion often involves discrimination against people with Down syndrome and other disabilities, I also think that the only way to conduct a conversation about these issues is to address the reality that most women think abortion is the reasonable and even good choice when presented with a prenatal diagnosis. I will be writing more about this later this week. Thanks again, Amy Julia

  3. Amy, it comes down to whether you are promoting the lives of people with Down syndrome or women’s choice (as you put it). Effective advocacy is about people with Down syndrome, not women who act out of fear and ignorance as shown in your other post. Mentioning abortion as an option in your writing is demeaning to our community, as are statements like “doctors ethical obligations to offervabortions for Down syndrome”. Down syndrome is not a big deal. Offering abortion because of it has no place in a civilised society and whist that continues there will be entrenched discrimination towards our children, something that you are reinforcing.

  4. Mike, we are on the same team, but we have very different ideas about how to most effectively “play the game.” If we can’t talk about selective abortion, if we can’t address the concerns that women have whether or not they are founded in contemporary accounts of Down syndrome, then we won’t make any progress in our hopes of creating a welcoming society for all children and adults with Down syndrome.

  5. Amy, we are not on the same team with this, we have fundamentally different views. I advocate that screening for Down syndrome should only be used for life a firming care, this honours the inherent dignity of people with Down syndrome. You write about presenting options for abortion where Down syndrome is diagnosed before birth, which devalues the lives of people with Down syndrome and other disabling conditions. It is a process of selecting the type of child to be born, based on biological differance.

    Women who are in health care because they have a wanted pregnancy deserve support when faced with an unexpected diagnosis, not to be told that they can suddenly have an abortion. The dignity of their child hasn’t changed because of that diagnosis. Offering abortion is not a civilised response to Down syndrome. If screening is being used to select the type of children being born, then that is eugenics.