Thursday, 7 June 2012

New genetic test brings prenatal eugenics one further step closer

Last August I blogged about a new pre-natal screening test that makes eliminating all people with genetic disease an achievable reality.

I said at the time that this test may mean that every pregnant woman will have a simple blood test at an early stage in pregnancy and offered an abortion if their baby carries any genes (including a female chromosome!) that they find undesirable.

Cell-free fetal DNA is DNA from the baby that has crossed the placenta into the mother’s blood. It makes up about 10% of all free DNA in the maternal blood and can now be examined to determine the baby’s sex and what genetic disorders it carries.

Today the BBC reports on new US research where a ‘blood sample from mum and saliva from dad’ were used to sequence the genome of an 18 week unborn baby using just this technology.

The doctors have said that the findings, reported in Science Translational Medicine, could eventually lead to foetuses being screened for more than 3,000 single-gene disorders through a single, non-invasive test.

The Abortion Act 1967 currently allows abortion up until birth where there is a ‘substantial risk’ or a ‘serious handicap’ – so-called ground E - but this is currently interpreted very liberally indeed.

Last year (see table 9) 146 babies ground E abortions were carried out after 24 weeks, the accepted age of viability, after which there must be such a serious risk for an abortion to be legal if the mother is not in danger.

But, overall in 2011, 2,307 babies were aborted under ground E including 512 with Down’s syndrome, 144 with spina bifida, 157 with a family history of heritable disorder and 4 with cleft lip and palate.

Between 2002 and 2011 there were 20,290 ground E abortions, the overwhelming majority of which were for conditions compatible with life outside the womb.

Of these, a total of 1,335 babies were aborted after 24 weeks.

The figures are a chilling testimony to a growing eugenic mindset in Britain, where babies with disabilities are eradicated before birth so as not to place a burden on families, society or the health service.

And yet these 20,000 abortions constitute only a fraction (1%) of the over seven million there have been in the UK since the Abortion Act was passed in 1967.

It is at the very heart of Christian teaching that human beings have value not because of any ‘intrinsic’ qualities they may possess, but for two main ‘extrinsic’ reasons. First, that they are made in the image of God for an eternal relationship with him, and second because God himself became a human being in the person of Jesus Christ and thereby bestowed unique dignity on the human race.

If we follow that view through to its logical conclusion it leads us to say that any human being, regardless of its age, appearance, degree of deformity or mental capacity, is worthy of the highest possible degree of protection, empathy, wonder and respect.

Our society’s increasing obsession with celebrity status, physical perfection and high intelligence fuels the view that the lives of people with disabilities or genetic diseases are somehow less worth living.

By contrast the Christian view is that the life of every human individual, regardless of its intelligence, beauty, state of health or degree of disability is infinitely precious. A just and caring society is one where the strong make sacrifices for the weak, or in the words of the Apostle Paul, ‘bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ’ (Galatians 6:2).

Let’s recognise and resist the eugenic mindset. Our priorities should be to develop treatments and supportive measures for those with genetic disease along with support for their families; not to search them out and destroy them before birth.


  1. And still you refer to embryos and foetuses as babies, one wonders where you qualified as a doctor.

    I have highlighted this before and do so again as there is a clear pattern among theists for doing this. You attempt to imply that abortions are killing little children, they're not. Amazingly you show little or no concern for the religious indoctrination of those children who are born - seems like your priorities are a little skewed.

    Peter, if you cannot assimilate this knowledge and are unable to learn the correct term for an embryo or foetus then I think you should return to medical college.

  2. Every pregnant woman who is not planning an abortion calls her pregnancy 'my baby'.

    I have never heard a woman say 'my fetus' or 'my embryo'.

    'Embryo' and 'fetus' may be the correct medical terms for up to and after 8 weeks gestation but they are also used to dehumanise life before birth by the pro-abortion lobby.

    The baby in the womb is just that, a baby, a little human being, and every abortion stops a beating heart.

  3. the pro-abortion lobby. - by this you mean the pro choice lobby. Maybe we should start referring to your side as the 'no choice lobby' or the 'forced pregnancy lobby'?

    It's almost amusing, you suggest we use terms to dehumanise the foetus and yet you use pejorative terms to dehumanise us.

    ...they are also used to dehumanise life before birth by the pro-abortion lobby.

    That would be because it isn't a human life until it is born.

    Every pregnant woman who is not planning an abortion calls her pregnancy 'my baby'.

    You are neither pregnant or a woman, so not only shouldn't you use the term you shouldn't have an opinion on it - especially when the foundation for that opinion is a religious book.

    The baby in the womb is just that, a baby, a little human being, and every abortion stops a beating heart.

    What total and utter garbage. You are a liar. The embryo's heart does not develop until around the 4th week of pregnancy, abortions can occur before that either naturally or by medical intervention.

  4. 1. Pro-abortion means that you support abortion which you do

    2. No doctor or mother calls a wanted baby a fetus, but a baby

    3. The embryo is human (an organism with 46 human chromosomes) and is most definitely alive (with movement, respiration, growth, sensitivity, nutrition and excretion etc) so it is fair to call it a human life

    4. Over half of babies who are aborted are female but they have no voice and also many women are hurt by abortion so someone must speak out for these female human beings

    5. Last year only 2,000 of 189,000 induced abortions took place before 5 weeks and these were all around 4 weeks so accurate to say every abortion stops a beating heart

  5. 1. Lies. Pro abortion means actively wanting pregnant women to abort. Pro choice means wanting them to have the option of choosing.

    2. Deception. Doctors regularly refer to a foetus.

    3. Deception. Suggesting an embryo is a human life is like calling a brick a house. an embryo has potential, just like the brick.

    4. Deception. The vast majority of embryos that are aborted are actually aborted naturally without their mothers even knowing they were pregnant. Of those that are aborted by medical intervention there is a small percentage more that are female and not male.

    5. Deception. Its a lie to say that every abortion stops a beating heart when it simply isn't true or even provable. The 'morning after pill' is a very good example of this and shows what utter rubbish you are talking.

    The one thing you deliberately skipped over though is that you are male and will never be forced to be pregnant. The documented percentage of people who are both against abortion and male is 77%, this seems a very high figure considering that not one of them should have a say in something that will never personally affect them.

    Peter, why do you think you should have a say in what women do with their bodies?

  6. 1. Pro choice means choosing to kill your baby

    2. Not when talking to a pregnant mother

    3. No more like a sapling to a tree. Brick is inanimate and only part of a house. Sapling is a living whole tree, only younger.

    4. No. Induced abortion accounts for 200,000 babies annually in Britain. That's every fifth pregnancy. Worldwide many more female than male babies are aborted due to sex selection.

    5. I'm talking about the 200,000 induced abortions each year authorised under the abortion act.

    6. The baby is not part of the woman's body. It is a genetically distinct human life deserving of legal protection.

    Btw have you ever had an abortion yourself?

  7. 1. Another lie. Pro choice means exactly what it says, which is: Enabling every woman to have a choice and not be forced into having an unwanted pregnancy.

    2. Semantics.

    3. Untrue. an embryo is in no way like a small living person only smaller, it is much more like the brick in which it has potential. The same is true, although admittedly less so, for a foetus.

    4. Are you denying that the majority of possible pregnancies are naturally aborted, in some cases without the mother even knowing? If so then that too is a lie. It is a documented fact that the body naturally aborts around 1/3rd of all embryos/foetuses, often because the body decides that conditions are not right for a successful gestation period. The mother may decide that her conditions are not right to raise a child, there is no difference between her body rejecting the thing growing inside her to her choosing to reject it.

    5. Narrowing down your definition of abortion after you have made a glaring error in your statement is the trick of the troll. You said "accurate to say every abortion stops a beating heart" which I have proven is patently untrue, even within your narrow definition it is not a given absolute.

    6. The term 'human being' (or human life) was never intended to be used for an embryo or foetus, one reason for this is because (certainly up to say 20 weeks, and sometimes beyond) it cannot survive outside of the mothers womb. The foetus has an almost parasitic quality in that it needs its host up to the 20 week period and often beyond. Suggesting that a woman should be forced to continue a pregnancy that she has decided she does not want is akin to forcing a cancer victim to keep her cancer lest we destroy those cells that are growing within her. Both things which are growing could be said to have a life, but neither is capable of living without its host.

    Peter, why do you ask if I have had an abortion when you know I am a man? I will do you the honour of an answer though, no I have not had an abortion as I have never been able to become pregnant. Now perhaps you will answer my question, which was: Peter, why do you think you should have a say in what women do with their bodies?


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