Good News for Fetuses with Down syndrome in Massachusetts?

Good News for Fetuses with Down syndrome in Massachusetts? July 6, 2012

As Bonnie Rochman reported for Healthland on last week:

Of the myriad things that can go awry with pregnancy, Down syndrome is perhaps the best known. In the past year, several new tests have become available to detect the condition prenatally, as early as 10 weeks of pregnancy. Whether these tests are cause for celebration or alarm, however, depends upon what decision you’d make if your unborn baby was diagnosed with Down syndrome.

Now, Massachusetts has become the most recent state to pass legislation requiring doctors to give parents who have the prenatal diagnosis “up-to-date, evidence-based, written information” about the physical, intellectual and developmental outcomes of the chromosomal disorder, and treatment options. Both Virginia and Missouri have similar laws; national legislation was passed in 2008 but remains largely unfunded.

“This wasn’t a pro-life bill, and it wasn’t a pro-choice bill,” says Brian Skotko, co-director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Down syndrome program. “It was a pro-information bill.”

(To keep reading Rochman’s article, including a quotation from yours truly, click here.)

On the one hand–very good news that three states have taken these steps to make sure that women have adequate information to make a decision about continuing or ending pregnancies when confronted with a diagnosis of Down syndrome. But on the other hand, well, of course there’s the difficulty of assuming that a diagnosis of Down syndrome automatically implies a choice about termination, and then the problem that the legislation addresses–that many (most?) women receive inaccurate information when making a decision about life or death for their baby.

I know that accurate information won’t end all decisions to terminate. But I hope and pray it will help more women to imagine a good life that includes a child with Down syndrome.

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