Current Legal Challenges to Abortion: Implications for Prenatal Genetics
The ability to examine the health of the fetus has expanded dramatically in the last half century. Most of the time, the news is reassuring. However, prenatal screening and diagnosis detect genetic conditions in a small percentage of cases. Effective prenatal intervention for these conditions is still uncommon—few are treatable prenatally. Therefore, when their physician detects a congenital fetal condition, some people choose to terminate their pregnancies.
For decades, states have varied widely in their willingness to provide access to prenatal testing and legal remedies when parents claim that they would have chosen to terminate the pregnancy had they known of the fetal condition. In addition to attempting to ban abortion early in pregnancy before prenatal diagnosis is possible, several states have sought—in some cases successfully—to limit or eliminate abortion as an option following prenatal diagnosis by implementing “reason bans”. These legislative activities prohibit a provider from performing an abortion when they are aware that fetal race, sex, or the presence of anomalies (such as Down syndrome, which is often mentioned by name in the statutes) are motivating…
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