A new prenatal test for Down Syndrome arrives, and with it, the possible end of the condition. But do we have the stomach for it?
The new test, from the San Diego firm Sequenom, is far safer for pregnant women than previously existing tests, which could cause miscarriage, the New York Post reports. But the ability to screen for Down Syndrome easily will also likely lead to far more frequent abortions in cases where the syndrome is detected. The debate becomes: how far down the road toward eugenics is the society willing to go to eradicate Down Syndrome, or other birth defects?
The safer prenatal screenings will likely mean more women will be tested, and the number of women carrying babies with Down syndrome who terminate their pregnancies could increase, if not skyrocket. Today, 92% of mothers who get a definitive diagnosis of Down choose to abort, surveys show.
“It’s a real conundrum,” Wolpe says. “Human beings have always tried to fight and cure disease, and this tool, projecting it forward 50 years when it’s powerful enough, will make a difference in eliminating those diseases in the world. It’s a tough call.”