Genetic Selection

Prenatal and embryo screening are used to analyze the genetic make-up of a fetus or embryo, allowing decisions about whether to continue a particular pregnancy or use a particular embryo to initiate a pregnancy. Prenatal genetic testing came into wide use in the 1970s with ultrasound-guided amniocentesis. In 1990, embryo screening, also known as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), was developed for use with in vitro fertilization (IVF) to determine whether an embryo with specific genes of interest should be used to initiate a pregnancy. Noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT), which extracts and tests fetal DNA from maternal blood samples drawn as early as 8 weeks into a pregnancy, was introduced in 2011.

In principle, these tests can identify fetuses or embryos with any particular genetic sequence. Prenatal and embryo screenings and tests are used most commonly to identify Down syndrome and genetic conditions such as Tay-Sachs disease, sickle cell disease, thalassemia, and cystic fibrosis. They can also be used to select other gene-related traits, most commonly sex. Social sex selection raises concerns about exacerbating gender stereotypes and normalizing the “design” of children; in some countries, notably in South Asia and Eastern Europe, it has created dramatically lopsided sex ratios.

Many disability rights advocates, in particular, have been critical of genetic selection techniques. They typically support women’s right to decide whether or not to have a child at a given time, but are deeply concerned about basing this decision on the presumed traits of the particular embryo or fetus.

Biopolitical Times

As we learned last Friday, the UK’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has given Newcastle Fertility Centre the green light to create embryos using 3-person IVF techniques and implant them in two women affected by mitochondrial disease. The aim is to create children that are unaffected by mitochondrial disease, yet fully genetically related to both parents. While pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is successful in preventing the transmission of mitochondrial disease in most cases, these two cases were deemed exceptions....

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Doctors in Newcastle have been granted permission to create Britain’s first “three-person babies” for two women who are at risk of passing on devastating and incurable genetic diseases to their children.

The green light from the fertility regulator means that...

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A new advanced test for Down’s syndrome to be offered to pregnant women this year raises the prospect of people...


When we talk about gene editing technology, we often talk about—but almost never deeply consider—the concept of designer babies. Consider...

Bird's eye view of three scissors that look the same, lined up on a white table. The two on the sides are slightly opened, while the middle is completely closed.

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Close up of microscopic image of egg and sperm fertilization

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A white toddler with long black hair and dressed in a pick dress, is held by an adult mother. The toddler sits on a table, with their hands extended reaching for another adult's masculine hand in front of the toddler.

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