Pre-Natal Diagnosis

The push for pre-natal diagnostic tests for pregnant mothers just became stronger. Recently, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists began recommending that every pregnant woman, regardless of age, be offered a choice of tests to determine whether her baby has Down's Syndrome. The reason for this recommendation is, first of all, that although the common practice has been to recommend these tests for women over 35, doctors point out that there is no single event that happens at age 35 to make Down's Syndrome more likely. The scale of risk is a continuum.

Secondly, ACOG points out that new methods of testing have been developed that are less invasive. Their top recommendation simply involves ultrasound and a blood test.

Aside from the medical questions, however, many moral questions arise. Are such tests morally permissible? What are they meant to accomplish? Is undue pressure being placed on pregnant mothers to have these tests? Is pressure being put on them to abort?

 Pope John Paul II addressed the issue of pre-natal diagnosis with these words in "The Gospel of Life" (Evangelium Vitae):

Special attention must be given to evaluating the morality of pre-natal diagnostic techniques which enable the early detection of possible anomalies in the unborn child. In view of the complexity of these techniques, an accurate and systematic moral judgment is necessary. When they do not involve disproportionate risks for the child and the mother, and are meant to make possible early therapy or even to favor a serene and informed acceptance of the child not yet born, these techniques are morally licit. But since the possibilities of pre-natal therapy are today still limited, it not infrequently happens that these techniques are used with a eugenic intention which accepts selective abortion in order to prevent the birth of children affected by various types of anomalies. Such an attitude is shameful and utterly reprehensible, since it presumes to measure the value of a human life only within the parameters of "normality" and physical well-being, thus opening the way to legitimizing infanticide and euthanasia as well.

The Church's approach is quite balanced. Diagnosis, not immoral in itself, must have a proper purpose and motive. In some ways, diagnosis advances a culture of life, because the unborn child is medical science's newest patient. I have been privileged to participate in conferences of fetal surgeons, and this branch of medicine can serve life in increasingly effective ways.

Yet every tool can be used for good or for harm. Dr. Jerome Lejeune, a strongly pro-life geneticist who discovered the origins of Down's Syndrome, lamented the fact that this knowledge was sometimes being used for a "search-and-destroy" mission. And it is no secret that there is a bias among medical professionals to recommend abortion when test results even a hint (often mistakenly) of Down's Syndrome, as Brian Skotko of the National Down's Syndrome Congress found out when he surveyed 2,945 mothers of children with this condition.

Let's stand both for the advancement of the treatment of the unborn, and against the deadly mentality that pushes to kill the less than perfect.

Fr. Frank Pavone

By

Father Frank A. Pavone is an American Roman Catholic priest and pro-life activist. He is the National Director of Priests for Life and serves as the Chairman and Pastoral Director of Rachel's Vineyard.

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  • Guest

    If I am ever again blessed with a pregnancy that proceeds to the stage where I would be offered diagnostics such as the alphs-fetal protein and the amniocentesis, I will decline these tests.  There are so many false positives, and I wonder how many perfectly healthy babies have been aborted because one of these tests indicated down's syndrome or spinabifida.

  • Guest

    Me and my wife have had 3 false positives with these tests. They wanted to take the test on our most recent baby and we said NO! The results make no difference to us. God blesses us with each birth Downs syndrome or not. There is no point for the test, if it is positive then God has seen you fit to raise a special child. As I said though I have had 3 false positives so how many children are being slaughtered for this unreliable test?

  • Guest

    Whether a child still in the womb is "perfect" or not should not dictate a death sentence.  This places the person as object, not subject, as we are to consider each and every other human on our earth.  Justifying the killing of a pre-born child through screening for "defects" is the perfect outcome of a society that regards people as problems, not the beautiful creatures mirroring God that we are!

  • Guest

    sautieri,

    The slaughtering of the children you mentioned is indeed the point for these tests.  It is all about promoting abortion.

    This sick policy is a symptom of a sick society. 

    It is not difficult to see where this goes, especially if the government requires universal health care. We will be shown the data pointing out the enormous cost of these congenital diseases.  It is inevitable that most will be convinced not to support using precious health care tax dollars to provide medical coverage to pay for such an unnecessary expense.  The responsible lthing to do will be to only covered the abortion in these situations, thus effectively requiring abortion.  

    I'm not saying we are going to outlaw imperfect babies.  But we will just make it so much easier to make them go away than to love them and give them life.

    The pro-life viewpoint will be ever more marginalized if this becomes mandatory in our land.

  • Guest

    I'm not sure that the medical community is necessarily promoting abortion by doing prenatal diagnostics.  Very often, I think, there is insatiable curiosity that accompanies the medical mind.  So they say, "We can do this test, so we should do this test."  Even if there isn't a point to the test.  I declined these tests, because of the pointlessness and the risks that accompany them are very high.  If, someday, medicine finds ways to heal certain  difficulties in utero, and thus makes these tests have a purpose, that would be a good thing.  But for the time being, where the things they test for, are not in their power to change, and the risks to the baby are so high, they should not be mandatory.

  • Guest

    harlequin05,

    Be sure.

    As Mark Shea observed in his formula for human history: 

    Step #1: What could it hurt?

    Step #2: How were we supposed to know?

    The cruel fact of our society today is that 95% of babies diagnosed with Down's in utero are aborted.  Mandating all pregnant women get tested in the future will guarantee more are aborted, false positives or not. In my view, that is the inescapable result.

    I wish I shared your view.  Perhaps some of the doctors in the ACOG share your view.  But those who make money from this know what this is doing and where it is heading.

    They count on most of us to follow Shea's formula. Again, I do not believe this is going to look like some SS thug dictating to a cowering physician in the office.  We are going to happily and enlightenedly come to this destination ourselves.

    Then be shocked and bewildered at the result.

  • Guest

    I can assure any parent with a prenatal diagnosis of Downs Syndrome that it is now possible to mitigate, and in some cases, nearly eliminate the symptoms of the disease. This includes the reversal of retardation, speech impediments, and musculoskeletal characteristics typical of the disorder. Research is ongoing with this and many other supposedly "incurable" defects. Interested parties may check the Web site: http://www.fisherinstitute.org. I can also provide published documentation of specific cases that evidence the statements above to persons who provide their email address for response.

    Smile

  • Guest

    While I was pregnant with my youngest daughter in 1998, my OB/GYN informed me that I had a high level of a rare (kell) antibody.  There wasn't much information about this particular condition, but in order to make certain that the baby would develop without complications, I needed to have an amniocentesis to determine if my antibodies would/would not attack the baby.  This test was done purely as a way to treat the baby.  The results of the test were positive that my antibodies could attack our little girl.  Having this test performed allowed us and our doctor treat her so she could come to full term without any problems.  Technology used in the way God wants us to use it is a blessing.  Although my daughter had to have two intrauterine blood transfusions, she was born healthy.  We had turned her care over to God and asked him to guide our doctor.  I thank the Lord every day for this miracle.  We need to remember that not all tests performed are done with the intention of terminating a pregnancy.  Many babies have benefitted by being treated while still in the womb.  Let us continue to pray that God guide these skillful doctors to caring for these babies instead of hurting them. 

  • Guest

    How can you give such assurance?

    I just went to the fisherinstitute.org web site.  I saw nothing about Down's syndrome or prenatal intervention.

    The two objectives stated on the web site are:

    - to explore the extent, if any, to which nutraceuticals, glyconutritionals, phytonutritionals, functional foods, and/or other natural substances may provide integrative and complementary health and wellness support.

    - to support development of technology related to these areas. It is also hoped that the ongoing results of these endeavors will provide data that is sufficiently informative to stimulate further research and education.

    The education link had two brief articles about nutrition.  One on antioxidants,and one on Phytonutrients. Neither were scholarly reports. 

  • Guest

    Ugh.  This is an evil of socialized medicine (one of many) that I'd never even contemplated before.

  • Guest

    ddudek,

    I am not certainly not opposed to treating the unborn patient.  It is awesome what treatments doctors can perform for the little ones in the womb.

    But let us make sure, as you point out, that we recognize the unborn child as the patient, not the disease.

    "Do no harm" is supposed to be a physician's first duty.

    PTR!

  • Guest

    My story:  Twelve years ago, I learned through ultrasound that I was pregnant with twins.  Since I was 42, my doctor's orders were that I have amniocentisis, which I complied with, never intending that it would be to terminate the pregnancy, but to have as much information about the pregnancy as I could.  Approximiately one week later, I received the information from the doctor that we had a boy and a girl and the girl had Down Syndrome.  The doctor's next sentence was that I could have a selective reduction abortion, where the girl would be aborted and the boy would not; however, there would be a risk to the boy, as well.  My words back to the doctor were, "in no way are we interested in even discussing this issue, as aborting any part of this pregnancy is not an option for us."  Then she said that we could have further testing to check the heart of the baby girl, as 50% of children with Down Syndrome have heart defects, so we did do that and learned that she had a healthy heart.  We also began reading books about what challenges our precious little girl could have.  We meant a family who had a little girl with Down Syndrome and by the time the twins' birth arrived, we were as prepared as we could be and it was a huge celebration, so in that regard I was thankful for prenatal testing; The question remains that if we would not have known about our little girl before their birth, would things have been different?  My answer to that is, I believe the preparation time was very helpful; however, we still would have loved her dearly even as the doctor handed her to me right after her birth, then we would have begun the education process.  I believe that education is the key to using prenatal testing wisely, at least for a diagnosis of Down Syndrome.  I cannot even imagine having terminated the life of our little girl.  She is smart, beautiful, a blessing to our family, our church, our community.  She is a content, happy little girl.  My life has been blessed with many people I would not have meant had it not been for her.  It breaks my heart to read that some 90% of children who are diagnosed with DS are aborted.  I just hope my daughter and I have been a testimony to the joy that a child that may not be perfect in the world's eyes, but is perfect in God's eyes, can bring and that we have shown that being open to whatever gift God gives you can bring incredible joy. 

  • Guest

    My wife and I recently had our fourth child.  His name is Tate and has CHARGE syndrome.  Children w/ CHARGE are born w/ heart defects, kidney defects and are usually deaf/blind (to varying degrees).  Tate is now 5 months old and has undergone many surgeries (2 open hearts, cleft lip repair, g button placement, etc.).

    He is deaf, legally blind and will be a challenge in many ways for the rest of his life.   He's also the most precious little boy in the world.  We have a 10 year old son, Peyton, w/ the same syndrome, also precious of course,(we're one of three families in the world w/ two CHARGE kiddos).

    We found out at around 20 weeks that Tate had CHARGE.  Having been down that road already w/ Peyton made this news extremely difficult to absorb.  However, abortion was NEVER an option, although the suggestion was made to us by more than one person.  When we hear of people aborting their child because they are "less than perfect", it saddens us deeply.  While it is extremely difficult to raise a child with special needs, it's at the same time very rewarding.  These children truly are innocent gifts from God who bring so much joy to the many people who are fortunate enough to be involved in their lives.

    Thank you for this fine article, I hope many people read it and forward it to as many friends as possible.  If you wish to see our beautiful little boy, feel free to visit his website at caringbridge.com (type in "tateyoung" for the sitename).  God bless!!

  • Guest

    Marcia and mcyoung,

    God bless your families!

    Thanks for sharing your stories and bearing witness to God's love in your lives.

  • Guest

    Thank you, Protect the Rock, for your response.  I regret that the Fisher Institute site did not have reference to the information I referred to.  This was part of a lecture, followed by a Q&A session presented by Dr. McDaniel, which I can send to you (on DVD) if you will entrust me with an address.  I also have a 36 page booklet, complete with pictures: "A Gift Called Michelle", written by her mother. Michelle was a Downs Syndrome baby and for the first ten years suffered many of the health problems typical of this genetic disorder.  In her ninth year, through a friend her parents learned of a nutritional supplement (glyconutrients) that supplied carbohydrates missing from our food supply.  They began a supplementation program and, over time, Michelle's problems diminished.  BY age 17 she appeared to be a healthy, normal high school girl, despite the syndrome.  In the booklet is a picture of her "Straight A's Certificate"!  You may also have a copy of the booklet.  The final few pages also refer to others who have benefited similarly.

    Additional research in this field is also available at http://www.glycoscience.com. 

    You may contact me at Ed_Faddoul@catholicexchange.com.

    Smile

     

     

  • Guest

    God loves you .

    nareman, it’s Easter – go OD on grace, will ya?

    When my wife, Sharon, had delivered of our one daughter, Helena, and yet had done so after 48 (!) hours of labor and still required the services of the best gyne surgeon around for accelerated cesarian section I was advised by her ob-gyne partnership to vasectomize – I did, and I have paid for it psychically and spiritually, ever since.

    Only later did I find out that this group specialized in ‘discouraging’ those with genetic disorders (my wife was a type a diabetic) from reproducing. Sharon changed physicians, and we could have no more kids – for these know-it-all-know-nothings’ ‘advice’.

    There are such potent difficulties with ego-driven agenda nowadays, it is difficult to know who to trust.

    Remember, I love you, too

    Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell @catholicexchange.com or … yahoo.com)

  • Guest

    Warren,

    nareman does not sty to read these threads.  He or she deposits his or her posting and departs.  I've been deleting these posts as I find them.  It's like being on yard patrol with the pooper scooper.

    PTR!

  • Guest

    God loves you .

    Thank you, PTR. Your simile is right to the point.

    Remember, I love you, too

    Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell @catholicexchange.com or … yahoo.com)

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