SEATTLE, WASHINGTON, June 8, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A newly developed prenatal test that allows doctors to diagnose some 3,500 genetic defects previously undetectable before birth has raised concerns that thousands of disabled children could now be targeted for abortion.
Researchers at the University of Washington were able to sequence the entire genome of an unborn baby using fetal and maternal DNA extracted from the mother’s blood and paternal DNA from the father’s saliva.
According to a report on the project published this month in Science Translational Medicine, the reconstructed prenatal genome was 98 percent accurate when compared with post-natal results in two separate pregnancies.
Dr. Jay Shendure, associate professor of genome sciences at the University of Washington, told Science Daily that the research had made it possible to diagnose a previously unheard of range of genetic disorders.
“This work opens up the possibility that we will be able to scan the whole genome of the fetus for more than 3,000 single-gene disorders through a single, non-invasive test,” he said. According to the news service, epilepsy, schizophrenia, and some cases of autism and intellectual impairments can all be potentially detected using this method.
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Current pre-natal testing for genetic disorders tests for only a limited number of more easily detectable genetic abnormalities, such as trisomy disorders that are caused by the presence of an additional chromosome.
Trisomy 21, or Down Syndrome, is one of the more common of these disorders, and has been at the center of the debate over pre-natal testing. Senator Rick Santorum, whose daughter, Bella, has Down Syndrome, was a vocal opponent of an ObamaCare provision funding prenatal testing for pregnant women. Santorum spoke out against the proposal during his bid for the Republican nomination, citing selective abortions as the reason for his opposition.
“Yes, prenatal testing, amniocentesis does in fact result more often than not in abortion. That is a fact,” Santorum told CBS News.
Multiple studies have found that there is a higher than 90 percent abortion rate in the U.S. for babies prenatally diagnosed with Down Syndrome. According to the International Down Syndrome Coalition for Life, about 50 percent of all Down Syndrome babies are believed to have lost their lives to abortion.
The organization reports that there was an 11 percent decrease in babies born with Down Syndrome between 1989 and 2006, when there should have been an estimated 42 percent increase.