What Prenatal Testing Has to Do with the Church (and Other Religious Communities)

Penny praying before Christmas dinner a few years ago

I have a new essay on the Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog. It begins:

Every pregnant woman has decisions to make about prenatal genetic testing, and it’s not as simple as sticking out your arm for a blood draw.

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), doctors should offer prenatal screening for some genetic conditions to all pregnant women, regardless of age or other risk factors. In the past year, blood tests have come on the market that promise to identify Down syndrome and other trisomies (the presence of a third copy of what is typically a pair of chromosomes) as early as eight to ten weeks within a pregnancy and technological advances now hold out the possibility of screening a fetus’ full genome for atypical genes at a relatively low cost.

Doctors can offer the medical information necessary to put the results of these tests in context, but these tests are much more than conduits of medical information. They require expectant parents to contemplate their values and cultural assumptions about health, relationships, independence and the role of people with intellectual and physical disabilities within our families and within our society. Most doctors are not (and need not be) prepared to offer counsel for the ethical, spiritual, and emotional questions raised by prenatal screening tests. Women need to consider their own position towards these tests and the information they provide before they agree to testing. Moreover, churches and other faith-based institutions need to begin conversations engaging the ethical questions parents face as they consider the role of prenatal testing in pregnancies. With that said, it can be hard for individuals and groups to find resources for guidance through these issues. I wrote “What Every Woman Needs to Know About Prenatal Testing: Insight From a Mom Who Has Been There in hopes of offering a nonjudgmental guide for women through the questions that come up about prenatal testing in pregnancy.

Continue reading The Very Personal Ethics of Prenatal Testing

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).


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