Advances In Prenatal Testing Create New Twist In Abortion Debate

Illustration for article titled Advances In Prenatal Testing Create New Twist In Abortion Debate

With Trig Palin being perhaps the best known special-needs child in American history, there have been several articles about increased genetic testing for prenatal abnormalities in recent days. As the story goes, Sarah Palin knew before he was born that Trig had a genetic condition, but because of her strongly held anti-abortion beliefs, did not consider abortion as an option. The Wall Street Journal profiles Jennifer Carden, a Michigan mother who made a similar choice, and had her son Parker in 2007.According to the Journal, "Parker survived and is now 20 months old. He has poor language and motor skills and may never walk. Already hospitalized three times, Parker's medical odyssey has stretched the Cardens' finances and put a huge strain on their relationship." It got to the point where the Cardens had to get help from their parents to buy groceries for their family, which included three other children in addition to Parker. A piece in the Washington Post outlines the pros and cons of increasingly advanced fetal DNA testing. Proponents of the test, which "use 'gene chips' to detect much subtler chromosomal variations than standard prenatal testing can," like Baylor's Arthur L. Beaudet, argue that for people who want maximum information, they deserve to know. "Some of these disorders are quite burdensome. They require lifelong nursing care. In some cases these children never walk, never talk, never feed themselves," Beaudet tells the Washington Post. "It can have a major impact on the family. People say, 'I wish you had given me the opportunity to know ahead of time. It's really destroyed our lives.' That's why women want to know." Opponents say that not only is the test not accurate enough, but that its use could lead to eugenics. "The question is, what is the information used for?" David Prentice of the pro-life Family Research Council asks the Post. "If it's for informing the parents so they can be prepared for what might come, that's great. But if it's being used for eugenics purposes — for abortion — we would be against it." Where I think this could add a new wrinkle in the abortion debate is that perhaps some pro-choicers will believe that aborting a special needs child is morally wrong. This is pure speculation based on anecdotal evidence, but possibly it hews too close to eugenics for some, even considering the dire emotional and fiscal costs to the family involved. But let's get back to Trig, the public face of special needs. Unfortunately, his mother, for all her purported caring about other children with Down syndrome, does not support the raising of taxes to fund special needs programs. She came out against Colorado's Prop 51, which according to the Guardian, "would provide thousands of children and adults with autism, Down's syndrome, cerebral palsy and other disabilities with critically needed care, through a phased-in sales tax of 0.2%." The proposition has been championed by a McCain/Palin supporter, former Colorado first lady Frances Owens. Palin is against the ballot measure because, "There's got to be an alternative to raising taxes. It's a matter of prioritizing the dollars that are already there in government. What I did as governor of the state of Alaska was prioritize for a great increase in funding for our students with special needs up there. And I think that Colorado can do that also." But, as the Guardian points out, "It's hard to see how this could become a reality. McCain has sworn to an immediate government spending freeze. And Palin, in Colorado Springs, promised to cut taxes and balance the budget in one year. If past experience is any guide, all that means is cutting programmes affecting children with special needs." Again, as with Bristol's pregnancy, and the Alaska Governor's history of non-support for pregnant teens, it seems that the only children Palin cares about supporting are her own. The Toughest Test [WSJ] Fresh Hopes And Concerns As Fetal DNA Tests Advance [Washington Post] Special Needs And Conservative Creeds [Guardian] Earlier: Ask Not What Bristol Palin Can Do For You, Ask What Sarah Palin Can Do For Your Pregnant Daughter



As a proponent of eugenics I hate how it is used as this scary word now. Yes, what the Nazi's did was wrong but it doesn't make the idea behind it immoral. I do not believe having children is a right. We are all part of the human race, and its imperative is to improve. Since we don't have natural selection really going on anymore we have to step up and do it ourselves.

I know I am probably in the tiny majority here but I am against IVF and I think it is morally wrong to have children with severe defects. I am pro-choice but against abortion for myself, however if I ever got pregnant I would have my child tested for everything possible before having him/her. The world is overburdened enough and there is so many better ways to make use of the resources required to care for some of these children. You hear about the money invested and I can't help but think about all those kids in poor areas who could use the time and money spent on them. Or maybe we could actually have real 'gifted programs' in school and help children use all of their potential.