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Female laboratory technician sitting at computer that displays a DNA microarray

Excerpts from “The Other Scarlet ‘A’: Abortion’s Relationship to Genetic Testing” from THE GENE MACHINE by Bonnie Rochman.

When the second purple line appeared on the white plastic wand on a March morning in 2002, I knew next to nothing about pregnancy and even less about raising a child. It was years before I’d go on to cover parenting and pediatrics, and write about sequencing children’s genomes. Yet from the first days of that pregnancy, I was already enmeshed in the most cutting-edge technologies of the time, thanks to my friend Tali, whose son was due a week after mine.

Tali had recently moved to my home state of North Carolina from Israel, where nuchal translucency testing was standard. I had no idea what it was, but I figured it was important, judging by her level of outrage that this test to gauge Down syndrome risk — combination of an ultrasound to measure the collection of fluid under the skin on the back of a fetus’s neck, and a blood draw — wasn’t commonly available in the United States. Within days, she told me...