Title

Current Legal Challenges to Abortion: Implications for Prenatal Genetics

Publication Date:
Updated:

Collection Editor(s):

Collection Editor(s)
Name & Degree
Ellen Wright Clayton, M.D., J.D.
Work Title/Institution
Craig-Weaver Professor of Pediatrics and Professor of Health Policy, Vanderbilt University Medical Center; Professor of Law, Vanderbilt University School of Law
Name & Degree
Marsha Michie, Ph.D.
Work Title/Institution
Assistant Professor of Bioethics, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

Introduction

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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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 the decision to terminate. 

This collection of literature outlines some of the issues posed by the implementation of “reason bans” and forbidding abortion early in pregnancy and asks what role prenatal screening and diagnosis can and should play if reproductive choice were no longer available. These issues are considered in light of longstanding evidence about the impacts of prenatal diagnosis on expectant parents, especially the pregnant person.

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Section Title
Reason bans and prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome
Collection Header
Current information about Down syndrome
Body
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Legislative activity to limit access to abortion
Body
Collection Header
Current legal cases
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Section Title
Impacts of prenatal diagnosis
Collection Header
Early studies of the impact of prenatal screening and diagnosis on pregnant women
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Decision-making before prenatal genetic testing
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Decision-making after prenatal genetic testing
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Tags
abortion
prenatal genetics
Down Syndrome
Prenatal Diagnosis
Prenatal screening
Legal