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And About Prenatal Screening

Updated on September 14, 2015


The medical definition of prenatal screening is; screening for the detection of fetal disease, usually by ultrasound examination or by testing amniotic fluid obtained by amniocentesis. Other screening techniques include testing maternal serum and placental biopsy. Prenatal screening test are considered safe and non-invasive procedures which can identify mothers that MAY be more likely to have a baby with a birth defect. If a women is found to be at increased risk then diagnostic tests would be done for a more definitive answer. According to an article by Libby Copeland, The Unanswered Questions of Prenatal Genetic Testing, there is a new test developed by University of Washington scientists, which would be able to show most of a fetus’s genome. This is relevant for many reasons, thanks to the completion of the human genome project which completed the mapping of the human genome in 2003, according to genome.gov “The Human Genome Project has already fueled the discovery of more than 1,800 disease genes”. Thus the hypothesis is that mapping the fetus’s genome would yield answers as to whether the genetic structure shows any of the known variations or mutations in genes which may cause certain diseases, handicaps or malformations which MAY plague a child after birth.

There are many issues and underlying implications in the further development of prenatal screening methods and its use. Though ideally prenatal screening is for the identification of POSSIBLE issues a child may experience throughout their life, there is one major issue which remains at the heart of the controversy, according to Copeland “knowing what to do with the discovery”. If you find out that your child shows the genetic mutation known to cause Down’s syndrome, do you terminate the pregnancy, even though it is entirely possible the child will not have Down’s syndrome but simply be a carrier of the mutation in their genetic structure, which could in turn cause your grand-children to be born with Down’s syndrome. Though many people claim to only want answers to be able to prepare in advance for the challenges they might face in the future, there is no knowing how people will react once Pandora’s box is opened, just like in the story of Pandora, putting the lid back on the box does not erase what we have already gained knowledge of.

In a world where designer babies are not a thing out of a science fiction novel, it is easy to fathom that knowing your fetus’s genome would lead to decisions made on things as fickle as the color of eyes, or texture of hair swaying people on their decision to carry to term or abort. My personal opinion, I honestly have and will continue to stop at knowing my child’s sex, I like the intimacy of speaking to my child knowing whether I should say mommy’s sweet little girl or boy. I don’t want to know more than that because I don’t want to limit myself or my child. I believe that exceptional people aren’t exceptional for what they do, but for having the courage to do it. No it won’t be easy to go through life with certain diseases/malformations/handicaps but who am I to judge whether any person my child or not, deserves or doesn’t deserve the chance to surpass the “limitations” before them.

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Real People, Real Stories

The famous football quarterback, Tim Tebow would not be here today had his mom listened to her doctors when she was pregnant with him. She was told that Tim had a life threatening illness and probably not survive. Doctors advised her to get an abortion and she would not. Tim was born a healthy baby despite what the doctors said. I personally believe that there is a baby the moment a women gets pregnant and that every baby deserves a chance. Tim’s story is one of many that illustrates the fact that even with testing there is only a knowledge of increased probability for birth defects not a definite answer as to whether it will actually manifest, or if the child will just be a carrier of the genetic mutation/anomaly. Though people often spout that "knowledge is power" the question is the power to do what? as I stated previously, when we search out this information we often limit ourselves and our children, Anne Frank would have probably been aborted if her parents had known of her issues prior to birth, Temple Grandin would not have had the opportunity to show the world that autism doesn't mean you can't be more exceptional than a "normal" person. HOW MANY EXCEPTIONAL PEOPLE WOULDN’T HAVE HAD THE CHANCE TO CHANGE OUR WORLD?

Do you know anyone who is considered handicapped?

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