Council for Responsible Genetics Explores New Fetal Gene Test Method

Posted by Emily Beitiks July 6, 2011
Biopolitical Times

Just in time for the “Summer of Sex Selection,” the Council for Responsible Genetics has published a thorough and timely report about the imminent introduction of “non-invasive prenatal genetic diagnosis” (NIPD) and how it may encourage the spread of reproductive trait selection. 

Prenatal genetic diagnosis is currently accomplished with amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling.  Both of these methods hold a risk of miscarriage, preventing widespread use. NIPD, however, only requires a sample from the mother’s blood stream and can offer results as early as the seventh week of pregnancy, suggesting that prenatal screening will become far more pervasive. CRG’s report explores the risks of widespread NIPD use, whether screening for disabilities like Down syndrome, the sex of the fetus, or for a wider variety of traits and “pre-sick” tendencies. 

The report explores the current limitations of NIPD and its predictive abilities, and then expands into tougher ethical questions. For example, author Lori Haymon asks how NIPD will raise new challenges for both pro-life and pro-choice groups, as NIPD may lead more women to abort after finding an “undesired” trait. Haymon challenges us to consider, “Will NIPD results provide a woman with information that she can use to make her decisions, or information that makes the decision for her?” 

While the report does not attempt to provide policy recommendations for NIPD, it is significant for the questions it poses. These are questions we’ll have to confront to anticipate and avoid neo-eugenic uses of NIPD.

Previously on Biopolitical Times: