Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Wash. Post Op-Ed on Prenatal Testing

Rick Garnett passes along this interesting piece. An excerpt:

She was a fresh-faced young woman with a couple of adorable kids, whiling away an hour in the sandbox at the park near my home. So was I, or so I thought. New in town, I had come to the park in hopes of finding some friends for myself and my little ones.

Her eyes flicked over to where my daughter sat, shovel gripped in a tiny fist, and then traveled quickly away. The remark that followed was directed to the woman next to her, but her voice carried clearly across the playground. "Isn't it a shame," she said, an eyebrow cocked in Margaret's direction, "that everyone doesn't get amnio?"

It's been more than 20 years, but I saw the face of that woman again when I read about the recommendation from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) this month that all pregnant women get prenatal screening for Down syndrome. I worry that universal screening brings us all closer to being like that woman at the sandbox -- uninformed, judgmental and unable to entertain the possibility that people with disabilities have something to offer.

The ACOG news release notes that the recommendations are based on consistent scientific evidence and will allow obstetricians and gynecologists to best meet their patients' needs. Until now, women 35 or older were automatically offered genetic testing for Down syndrome; under the new guidelines, less invasive and earlier screening options will be extended much more broadly.

What's gone undiscussed in the news coverage of the guidelines seems to be a general assumption that reasonable people would want to screen for Down syndrome. And since nothing can be done to mitigate the effects of an extra 21st chromosome in utero, the further assumption is that people would be reasonable to terminate pregnancies that are so diagnosed.


Blogger Kathy Podgers said...

My son was born when I was 38 yrs old. The Dr. and then the next Dr. made me feel "ignorant" because I refused the amnio test. Even when I used an actual medical argument, ie, the stats were not reliable due to not considering that recently many women chose to postpone motherhood due to career demands.

My son was born alive and well. I cannot understand why the persence of a "disability" would result in rejection.

I believe the Drs are focased on "the pregnancy" and not "motherhood."

3:44 PM  
Blogger Jude said...

What Rick Garnett tells about his experience at the park, with his daughter....the most interesting thing to me was when he mentions that this happened over 20 years ago.
Funny how my daughter is only 11 and when she was first born (with Spina Bifida) I cannot even count how many people asked me "didn't you get the tests?", which could only imply that if I would have gotten "the test" I would have been able to terminate the pregnancy.
Even if people think this it is interesting to me that these crazy ideas are so wide spread and accepted that you could actually come right out and ask someone that about their child they are holding.

I still get asked this on occasion, and my response usually is "what would the test have done for me?", which usually shuts people up because they are scared to say what is actually on their mind. They also act a little shocked because before I got a bit defensive with them they were probably thinking they were just talking about things like anyone would.

It's a shame that people's perceptions have not changed in so many years and that the pre-natal testing is becoming even more wide spread.

4:06 AM  

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