Screening breakthrough could lead to eugenics, says pro-life group
A new breakthrough in foetal screening could lead “down the path of eugenics”, a pro-life group said today.
The charity Life said that a “real danger exists” that such genetic testing could lead to wide-scale abortion for disability.
The prenatal test, which is able to predict a foetus’s genetic code as early as 18 weeks, will allow unborn babies to be screened for 3,500 genetic disorders.
Scientists from the University of Washington believe the test, which raises many ethical questions, will become widely available in the future.
Currently more than 2,000 disabled unborn children are aborted every year in Britain, a figure that Life said could increase.
Life spokesman Mark Bhagwandin said: “How can it be that in this modern age of equality and non-discrimination thousands of babies are being screened and aborted because they are genetically defective?”
Down’s syndrome is currently the only genetic disorder routinely tested for on the NHS. The American scientists say the tests will be a considerable improvement on the existing invasive method of screening.
While recognising “the positive potential that these new tests may bring”, Life said they could be misused.
Anthony Ozimic of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) said that if introduced the test might put “widespread pressure” on mothers to abort.
He said SPUC would “discourage people from going in for tests when the only outcome is the identification of disabilities for abortion”.
Mr Ozimic said “the development of screening over the past 30 years has been promoted by the National Health Service as cost-saving” by identifying disabilities in the womb and offering abortions.
He raised concerns that this week’s screening breakthrough will have the “same mentality, purpose, objective and likely results”.
But the tool of genetic screening itself is not a detrimental factor, “it is how it is wielded”, said Mr Bhagwandin.
Mr Ozimic agreed, saying he would like to see advanced foetal screening resulting in an “increase in support and assistance offered to help prepare parents for birth”.
Mr Bhagwandin also said that genetics were not the whole picture.
He said: “Human beings are greater than the sum of their genes and science cannot yet measure what makes us truly human – courage, compassion, creativity.”