Personhood – People Devalued by Prenatal Diagnostic Testing

Recently I attended a medical lecture on prenatal diagnostic testing.  I was left with the question, “In the provision of this testing, what are we saying about the value of those disabled from birth?

Prenatal diagnostic testing  is testing offered to pregnant moms to attempt to determine if their baby may have a condition like Down Syndrome or various other conditions resulting from chromosome  and other genetic abnormalities. Earlier and earlier ways to identify these conditions in a pregnancy are looked for, since the primary purpose for this testing is to offer abortion of babies considered “defective” while it is still “safe” to do so.

There are lots of potential issues with the use of these tests but, in this posting, I am only considering the impact of this testing on the value society places on people born with disabilities, especially those disabilities that could have been “prevented” (by abortion).

At the stage in pregnancy when these tests are done, the use of the term baby is avoided.  Since we do not want to abort babies, we call them fetuses. We try not to abort normal fetuses but we offer to abort “defective”ones. Are not fetuses really babies at an early stage of development? So, are we not really offering to abort “defective” babies? Are not fetuses human beings at an early stage in development? Are we not offering to abort “defective” human beings?

Why do so many consider it alright to get rid of “defective” babies?

The lecture I attended presented the scientific facts of the tests.  I do not think abortion was even mentioned.  Nothing was said about the impact of such tests on society.  I propose that society’s approach to prenatal diagnosis, with it promotion of the abortion of “defective” babies,  promotes a devaluing of “defective” people.  Is this not contrary to society’s apparent anti-discrimination policy.

The effect this has on the way we think is not consciously thought out.  If our doctor recommends tests during pregnancy he/she does it for your good, does he/she not?  Do we need to think further than this?  If the test is positive then you need to face the possibility that you may be carrying a “defective” baby.  Carrying a what?  Does not the Lord God only give His people good gifts?  Are not these babies gifts from God just like normal babies are?  Do they not have a purpose in society just like all other people?  Yet, based on a test they get labeled “defective.”

Who defines normal anyway?

Whether you work in a related medical field or are offered” prenatal diagnostic testing, I encourage you to think about impact that this testing has or may have on our attitude towards people. Do we have the same attitude towards people as the Lord God who created them? Do we consider all people, Including those born with “defects,” as fearfully and wonderfully made? (Psalm 139)


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