Friday, 19 June 2015

The Down Side: Prenatal Testing and Its Consequences

As a long-time observer of the totally insane USian anti-abortion scene, I really really thought there was nothing left they could do that would shock me.

Of course I was wrong.
A bill banning abortions in cases where a test or diagnosis indicates Down Syndrome has cleared an Ohio House panel.

The House Community and Family Advancement Committee passed the measure Tuesday. Its next stop would be the House floor.

It's part of Ohio Right to Life's legislative agenda this session, as the anti-abortion group tries to continue a streak of legislative successes in Ohio's Republican-led Legislature.

The bill prohibits a person from performing, inducing or attempting an abortion on a pregnant woman because Down Syndrome is indicated.
Let that sink in a minute.

Caught your breath?

The state would force a woman to carry a defective pregnancy to term.

I took crap on Twitter the other day for calling Down Syndrome a defect, admonished rather to use the term "different."

Well, let's have a look at some facts.
Down syndrome (DS or DNS) or Down's syndrome, also known as trisomy 21, is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21. It is typically associated with physical growth delays, characteristic facial features, and mild to moderate intellectual disability. The average IQ of a young adult with Down syndrome is 50, equivalent to the mental age of an 8- or 9-year-old child, but this varies widely.
Go to the link for a long list of what else Down Syndrome entails: heart, hearing, vision, and thyroid problems, just to hit the highlights.

Of course I understand that all pregnancies pose various risks -- to the parent's health and life, ditto on the fetus.

And the Big Question: What sort of child will this pregnancy produce?

But pregnancy and child-rearing also represent huge investments.

Human beings are wired to try to minimize risk. So, of course there are all kinds of prenatal tests for things parents would like NOT to pass on to offspring.

Down Syndrome, being genetic, has had a lot of attention from scientists* trying to devise good tests. And they've been pretty successful.

Cell-free fetal DNA is non-invasive, can be done quite early, and has few false positives.

From Wiki: "Guidelines recommend screening for Down syndrome to be offered to all pregnant women, regardless of age."

So what happens when women get bad news?

They opt for termination.
About 92% of pregnancies in Europe with a diagnosis of Down syndrome are terminated. In the United States, termination rates are around 67%, but this varies significantly depending upon the population evaluated. When nonpregnant people are asked if they would have a termination if their fetus tested positive, 23–33% said yes, when high-risk pregnant women were asked, 46–86% said yes, and when women who screened positive are asked, 89–97% say yes.
Those numbers are pretty clear evidence that most people faced with this diagnosis say: No fucking way am I going through with this.

Here's a recent story from Britain:
More women than ever are choosing to abort babies with genetic abnormalities after the introduction of new blood tests that allow the conditions to be more easily detected during pregnancy.

An investigation into figures published by the Department of Health reveals the number of abortions carried out because babies were found to have Down’s syndrome or other serious disabilities has increased by 34 per cent in just three years since 2011.
This, of course, is what is prompting the SHRIEEEKING and the proposed law in Ohio.

Creepy Dominionist Mike Schouten goes Godwin at LieSite.

And here's a recent piece from the Washington Post, by Renate Lindeman, a "spokesperson for Dutch parent group Downpride."

She claims that Down Syndrome screening is about "eliminating a group of people."

No, it's not. It's individual parents and families, offered tests, given results, thinking it over, and making individual decisions based on their own desires and capacities.

In other words, people taking advantage of technological ingenuity to get information in order to make their own choices about their own families.

It doesn't get more human than this.

It's not evil, it's not genocide, and it certainly is not Nazi.

And the state has no fucking business in it. At. All.

Note to commenters: Yes. I know Down Syndrome people can be lovely, joyful people. And to people who choose to birth and bring up these children, good on you. But your saintliness gives you no right to shit on people who choose not to.

*When I was looking into prenatal testing for Down Syndrome, I found an interesting side story. Dr Jérôme Lejeune, the "discoverer" of the chromosomal anomaly, is considered by fetus freaks to be a hero. There's an institute named after him. Pope John Paul II wanted to make him president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. But sadly, Dr. Lejeune died before that could happen.

Well, funny story. Dr Lejeune actually stole the work of another researcher, a woman named Marthe Gautier.

At the time, the laboratories at the Armand-Trousseau hospital did not have a microscope capable of capturing images of the slides. Gautier entrusted her slides to Jérôme Lejeune, an intern at CNRS, who offered to take pictures in another laboratory better equipped for this task. In August 1958 the photographs identified the supernumerary chromosome in Down syndrome patients. However Lejeune did not return the slides, but instead reported the discovery as his own.

Ah, well, ç'est la vie, eh?


geoff kiernan said...

Your Foul mouth is indicative of what lies beneath. You are desperately in need of someone to keep you honest. That some one is the very person you would 'eliminate' ...

geoff kiernan said...

On pushing the Publish button, up came..." your comment will be visible after approval" Lets now see an example of your 'honesty'.....

fern hill said...

You happy, ducky? Here are your less-than-coherent comments.

Couple of things: one, I'm not in favour of eliminating anyone, and two, for the edification of our readers, this is the only blog your profile lists you as following. For the click-averse, it's a pretty nutty Catholic dealie.

You have anything cogent to add to this discussion? Because if not, we're done.

geoff kiernan said...

Gee all that without one F word.... Your are not in favour of eliminating anyone??? Try saying that again and this time keep a straight face.

fern hill said...

You really can't read, can you?

I gave you fair warning: something cogent or we're done.


Mitch said...

"Lets look at the facts" and you link to a wiki page. Hilarious.

fern hill said...

Wiki is as reliable as Encyclopedia Britannica when it come to science, but thanks for dropping by with that trenchant comment.

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