Human life is invaluable and every human being has an irrevocable right to life regardless of their age, race, gender, ethnicity or creed. By the preservation of this right, human beings can enjoy other rights and freedoms. Towards this end, numerous resources, both human and financial, have been devoted to advances in technology with the end goal of preserving and prolonging human life. Prenatal diagnosis is one such advancement for the detection of fetal genetic abnormalities by studying the fetal genome. Fetal genetic material is obtained by amniocentesis, chorionic villous sampling or cordocentesis. Prenatal diagnosis detects the possibility of a fetus developing chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome, Turner syndrome, and other congenital malformations.1 The results are presented to the parents to make a decision, whether to terminate or carry the pregnancy to term. While prenatal diagnosis is a proud advancement for humanity, it presents a potential threat to human life.
Invasiveness of the Procedure
The invasive nature of prenatal diagnosis tests endangers the lives of the fetus and the mother. A case in point is amniocentesis and chorionic villous sampling, which involves sticking a needle through the maternal abdomen or vagina into the uterus to obtain amniotic fluid samples. The sample is run through biochemical tests and chromosomal studies to develop a definitive diagnosis.1 The invasive nature of the procedure presents high-risk direct trauma to the fetus or introduces infections that harm the fetus. Studies have demonstrated an increase in the rates of miscarriages and pregnancy losses after the procedure of amniocentesis.
Prenatal genetic testing is often used as a pretext for abortion which is a thorny moral issue that puts into contention the fetus’s life versus the mother’s life. Every human life has ultimate significance, fetal life included. Unfortunately, the detection of genetic defects in the fetus has often been used to justify abortion. Terminating life based on genetic defects contradicts the belief in the equality of all human beings and the right to life, personal differences notwithstanding. Nothing justifies denying a human being the right to live based on genetically differences.
Genetic testing cannot distinguish between a fetus that will grow into a normal human being who is a carrier of an abnormal gene and one who will endure disease due to a genetic anomaly. Therefore, there is no justification for terminating human life based on prenatal genetic diagnosis. 2Those diagnosed as “defective” can grow up to be ordinary healthy people. Prenatal diagnosis and termination of pregnancy are not preventive measures against genetic diseases; it merely robs an innocent human being of life. With continuous exposure to mutagens in the environment, humans constantly develop new mutations every day.2 They will, therefore, always be genetically defective and genetic defectiveness should not be the basis of terminating life. It is hypocritical to deny another being of life for having genetic defects.
Prenatal diagnosis methods such as genetic testing predict possible outcomes but not absolute certainty. Cases of false-positive results are not uncommon, where the fetus may develop into a normal human being. In cases where individuals have become symptomatic of genetic diseases, they have a chance to lead a normal satisfactory life. Under an optimum environment, they can grow into highly productive members of society. 2Human beings are not defined by the disease or defect afflicting them. Unborn are human beings with immeasurable potential; they deserve the chance to live to exploit their full potential.
Assortment of Excessive Uncontrolled Power
Given a chance to thrive, the practice of genetic abortion will promote the idea of genetic superiority and inferiority. If the lives of unborn human beings with genetic defects are blatantly disregarded, this can be extended to human beings across the age spectrum. 2With time, nothing will hold back some human beings from ending the lives of others they deem to be genetically inferior. Every human life is precious and should be preserved regardless of any differences, qualitative or quantitative. Every human being has a sacred duty to uphold this mandate.
Prenatal genetic diagnosis and abortion is discriminatory towards persons with disability. When a prenatal genetic test determines a fetus has a genetic defect, parents are often presented with an option to terminate or continue with the pregnancy. This is often based on the presumption that persons with genetic defects will be physically or mentally handicapped and will be a burden to society. However, this is not always the case because not all individuals with genetic defects are disabled.3 Disabled persons do find ways of rising above their disability, living to their full potential without posing a burden to society. If anything, they become symbols of human resilience; the human spirit can always rise above any challenge.
The genetically ‘abnormal’ individual may also resent the parents and the society. In recent times, news of individuals suing their parents for being born with mental or physical deformities has become commonplace. In some countries, courts have granted plaintiffs compensation. Prenatal diagnosis will serve to increase the number of such cases.4 This also serves to fuel the anti-natalism movement that argues against procreation that being brought into existence does more harm than good. There is value in bringing life into the world, and everybody has a moral obligation to uphold this by procreating and preserving every conceived human being.
Prenatal diagnosis negatively impacts the mental and reproductive health of women. When the prenatal diagnosis culminates in the termination of the pregnancy, the experience is traumatic for women, both physically and mentally. It is difficult to overcome the pain of losing a child, and many women relive the experience and yearn for the child they never had years after the fact. Compounding the problem is the stigma associated with abortion in some societies.5 Diagnosis with genetic defects crushes the parents’ esteem over a perceived inability to reproduce a normal offspring. Some couples often avoid procreation altogether after the initial experience. Every parent has a right to enjoy parenthood regardless of their child’s genetic makeup to be, just as every fetus has the right to live and be loved.
While prenatal diagnosis presents an unprecedented evil that leads to loss of sacred human life, the proponents make compelling arguments. The increase in the global population has been rampant in the last few decades owing to the bettered quality of life. Those who agree with prenatal diagnosis argue that there is need to control the human population growth. This will ensure that the earth is optimized to handle a sufficient number of people and offer them the best quality of life. 6This entails ensuring that the people alive meet the necessary requirements for survival and can maximally contribute to daily activities. The regulation of the people alive entails filtering those with the best physical and cognitive capabilities and eliminating those with defects.
In conclusion, every human being has a right inalienable right to life, to exist and live up to their full potential regardless of their qualitative or quantitative traits. Prenatal diagnosis poses a clear threat towards realizing this right by facilitating termination of life. The idea that human life can be terminated in utero based on genetic defectiveness is dangerous. Deciding who lives or dies implies playing the role of god, yet all human beings are born equal and non stands superior to the other. Nothing will hold back men from annihilating fellow men if they find them genetically defective. No authority will prevent man from wittingly altering the human genome to suit his idea of a perfect human being. Nature by natural selection maintains a perfect balance and provides a niche for every being. It is not the place as humans to decide otherwise.
AbdulAzeez, Sayed, Nourah H. Al Qahtani, Noor B. Almandil, Amani M. Al-Amodi, Sumayh A. Aldakeel, Neda Z. Ghanem, Deem N. Alkuroud, et al. “Genetic Disorder Prenatal Diagnosis and Pregnancy Termination Practices among High Consanguinity Population, Saudi Arabia.” Scientific Reports 9, no. 1 (2019). Web.
Alfirevic, Zarko, Faris Mujezinovic, and Karin Sundberg. “Amniocentesis and Chorionic Villus Sampling for Prenatal Diagnosis.” The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, no. 3 (2017): CD003252. Web.
Frati, Paola, Vittorio Fineschi, Mariantonia Di Sanzo, Raffaele La Russa, Matteo Scopetti, Filiberto M. Severi, and Emanuela Turillazzi. “Preimplantation and Prenatal Diagnosis, Wrongful Birth and Wrongful Life: A Global View of Bioethical and Legal Controversies.” Human Reproduction Update 23, no. 3 (2017): 338–57. Web.
Lou, Stina, Kathrine Carstensen, Olav Bjørn Petersen, Camilla Palmhøj Nielsen, Lone Hvidman, Maja Retpen Lanther, and Ida Vogel. “Termination of Pregnancy Following a Prenatal Diagnosis of Down syndrome: A Qualitative Study of the Decision-Making Process of Pregnant Couples.” Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica 97, no. 10 (2018): 1228–36. Web.
Xie, Donghua, Changbiao Liang, Yueyun Xiang, Aihua Wang, Lili Xiong, Fanjuan Kong, Haoxian Li, Zhiyu Liu, and Hua Wang. “Prenatal Diagnosis of Birth Defects and Termination of Pregnancy in Hunan Province, China.” Prenatal Diagnosis 40, no. 8 (2020): 925–30. Web.
Zaami, Simona, Alfredo Orrico, Fabrizio Signore, Anna Franca Cavaliere, Marta Mazzi, and Enrico Marinelli. “Ethical, Legal and Social Issues (ELSI) Associated With Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing: Reflections on the Evolution of Prenatal Diagnosis and Procreative Choices.” Genes 12, no. 2 (2021): 204. Web.
- Zarko Alfirevic, Faris Mujezinovic, and Karin Sundberg, “Amniocentesis and Chorionic Villus Sampling for Prenatal Diagnosis,” The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, no. 3 (2017): CD003252, Web.
- Donghua Xie et al., “Prenatal Diagnosis of Birth Defects and Termination of Pregnancy in Hunan Province, China,” Prenatal Diagnosis 40, no. 8 (June 10, 2020): 925–30, Web.
- Paola Frati et al., “Preimplantation and Prenatal Diagnosis, Wrongful Birth and Wrongful Life: A Global View of Bioethical and Legal Controversies,” Human Reproduction Update 23, no. 3 (2017): 338–57, Web.
- Simona Zaami et al., “Ethical, Legal and Social Issues (ELSI) Associated with Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing: Reflections on the Evolution of Prenatal Diagnosis and Procreative Choices,” Genes 12, no. 2 (2021): 204, Web.
- Stina Lou et al., “Termination of Pregnancy Following a Prenatal Diagnosis of Down Syndrome: A Qualitative Study of the Decision-Making Process of Pregnant Couples,” Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica 97, no. 10 (2018): 1228–36, Web.
- Sayed AbdulAzeez et al., “Genetic Disorder Prenatal Diagnosis and Pregnancy Termination Practices among High Consanguinity Population, Saudi Arabia,” Scientific Reports 9, no. 1 (2019), Web.