Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Eugenics, ante-natal testing and choice

Some time ago I blogged about testing for Down's Syndrome. Now, there is news about some other genetic disorders: namely Patau and Edward's sydromes. Like Down's Syndrome they are due to trisomy - where a person has three copies of one of their chromosomes instead of the usual two - caused by random genetic mutations. Like Down's Syndrome their risk increases with maternal age. And like Down's Syndrome they can both be detected by amniocentesis. Now, according to to this article, earlier testing will become available.
Now, women will be able to make important decisions earlier on, says the article. There is only one important choice that we are allowed to make, as women. Everyone tells us so. When we talk about women and choice we are talking about the choice not to. The choice not to have a child who is less than perfect, the choice not to have a child with less than perfect timing, the choice not to have a child who doesn't fit into our plans, our budget, our lifestyle. We are not allowed be radical, or make sacrifices (except of our fertility). Whilst screening for such conditions could allow a family to prepare for a disabled child, perhaps learn more about what their condition entails and engage with support services available before the baby is born, this is not what is implied. The fact that many unborn children with these conditions will not survive to full-term is a tragedy and I do not wish to negate the suffering caused by such events. But abortion is not the solution. It will not mean the baby does not suffer and it will not mean the parents do not suffer. Earlier testing will not lead to better choosing or better preparation or more research about why such things happen, it will only lead to more deaths as we gradually seek to eliminate every single inconvenience (and especially inconvenient people) from our world.

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