You are on page 1of 6

The Moral Issues Surrounding Prenatal Testing Allison Evans

Through the course of this semester we have talked about a lot of issues concerning individuals and their relationship to the society that they live in. We have talked about everything from dehumanizing, separating a person, and now we have gotten into biological enhancements. This unit has been a very interesting one and I have decided to explore the moral issues surrounding prenatal testing. Before I start talking about the issues we have discussed in class and the ones I have found with my outside research I first want to explore how we got here. It seems to me that this is a relatively new issue, and I see two reasons behind this recent development. First, there is the technology involved in prenatal testing. The simple fact that we were not able to do this 50 years ago causes this to be a new issue. The second factor is the legal matters behind the issue of abortion. I have always been very interested in law, so I wanted to discover how this legal issue all started. I found that it all starts with the right to privacy. Nowhere in the United States Constitution does it saw we have the fundamental right to privacy, and yet today all Americans know that it is just a right we have. So how did we get this right? The answer lies in Griswold v Connecticut (1965). This was the

case that the right to privacy was established. Justice Douglas wrote the opinion after a 7 to 2 vote, and he stated that the right to privacy was all over the Bill of Rights. His reasoning involved the first, third, fourth, fifth, ninth, and fourteenth Amendments and he states that it is possibly implied in other places as well. But when I went back to look that these Amendments, none of them even have the word privacy in them, let along giving Americans the fundamental right to privacy. Some scholars will argue that Douglas made it up. And in my opinion he did a good job because the case became precedent, and we now have the fundamental right to privacy. My next question was how did we get from the fundamental right to privacy to the moral issues involved in prenatal testing, and it all has to do with abortion and the famous case that made abortion legal, Roe v Wade (1973). In this case, also with a 7 to 2 opinion, the court stated that the right to privacy is broad enough to include the right to an abortion. You still might be asking yourself, ok, so how do I go from the right to an abortion to the moral issues surrounding prenatal testing, and my answer involves the reasons behind the testing. Parents go through the prenatal tests to test for genetic malformations or disabilitys the fetus might have. The mother would then have the right to continue with the pregnancy or terminate due to the influences of the test results. As stated in Tom Shakespeares article The Social

Context of individual Choice there are really two sides to this argument. There is side A, which believes it would be bad parenting to bring a child into this world knowing it would have disadvantages in life due to the disability. And then there is side B, which believes that the fact that you would have an abortion if your child was disabled sends the message that you do not value the life of disabled people, and that their life is not worth living at all. While doing my research on the two sides I came across a book called Prenatal Testing and Disability Rights, by Erik Parens and Adrienne Asch. The book was filled in information involving prenatal testing, but it also had personal narratives by people who went through these issues. I decided to pick a personal narrative that would support each side of the argument on whether its bad parenting or we do not value the life of disabled people. For side A I found one written by Mary Ann Baily called Why I had Amniocentesis. Her short story was her going through her thoughts and how she made the choice to have amniocentesis. Why do I feel the need to explain? I am responding to the fact that many people in the disabled community see my choice of prenatal testing for genetic disabilities as a personal rejection I cant understand why they think this (Kent 64). She goes on and talks about how it should be a personal choice and how she does not feel entitled to a perfect child but the fact that given a choice, I would rather my child not have a disability. Thats all (Kent 68). She tries to

explain how it is not a personal rejection to everyone in the disabled community, but the simple fact that if she had a choice she would not choose for her child to have a disability. For a person with a disability to take this as a personal rejection seems unreasonable to me (Kent 68). For the other side of the argument found a short narrative by Deborah Kent called Somewhere a Mockingbird. This short story starts out with a blind woman, and you find out later that her brother is also blind, meaning the blindness is genetic not an accident at birth. As a child growing up, her parents were praised for being awesome parents because they raised her like a normal child, (Kent 57) but she always thought she wasnt like normal, she was normal. She also explained that society really didnt respect her as a full person, because I was blind, these people saw me as a liability- inadequate, incompetent, and too strange to be socially accepted (Kent 57). And she knew how hard it was for her parents to go through that. She ends up getting married to a man named Dick, and they start talking about having children as well. Once when I asked him how he would feel if he learned that our child was blind, he replied, (that he) would be devastated at first, but then (he would) get over it (Kent 58). Deborah couldnt understand this, nor was that the answer she was looking for. She was blind, and he chose to marry her and be with her forever. Dick accepted her blindness, why would it be devastating to him, even for a

moment? Deborah understood that he was the product of a society that views blindness, and all disabilities, as fundamentally undesirable (Kent 58-59). Both of these stories involve real people and real emotions. On one hand you want you child to have all the opportunities in the world, and have nothing hold them back. And yet on the other side you have to balance the life of a disabled person has value as well. In my opinion there is no universal answer that will fix this moral issue and allow us all to have the answers. I think for some people this is not an issue because they decide not to have the prenatal testing, and therefore eliminate their option all together. These people decide to leave it gods or natures hands and what happens, happens. But for the people who decide to have the prenatal testing, for whatever reason there then become the issue of what to do with the information. I believe there is a real lack in understanding what it is really like to have a child with a disability and what that really means for the family. For example my sister was born with a cleft-pallet. She had to have 13 surgeries before the age of two to repair her mouth so she was able to eat and talk. She was born with a disability. My mother did not have prenatal testing, outside of the standard ultrasounds and things of that nature, the normal stuff that was done 17 years ago. But even if she had done the prenatal testing and found that my sister would be born with this disability I know my mother would not have

aborted the pregnancy. There are other things to consider outside the fact that my baby is not perfect. I believe that if a woman is worried or chooses to have the prenatal testing then she needs to do all of her research. If something abnormal comes back, before making any decisions, she needs to research or talk to other families/ people with that disability. They need to get a real sense of life with that disability, and then make an informed decision on what to do about the pregnancy. On the opposite end of that I think people living with disabilities cannot take the decisions of others as a personal rejection. No parent wants to have their child struggle or have a hard time in life, it just some parents start that before the baby is born, and I thin that should be their decision.

Sources: Epstein, Lee and Thomas G. Walker. Constitutional Law for a Changing America: Rights, Liberties, and Justice. (pages 385-409). Seventh Edition, Washington D.C.: CQ Press, 2020. Print. Kent, Deborah, and Mary Ann Baily. Prenatal Testing and Disability Rights: Somewhere a Mockingbird, Why I had Amniocentesis. (pages 57-71)Ed. Erik Parens and Adrienne Asch. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown UP, 2000. Print. Class Articles: The social Context of Individual Choice by Tom Shakespeare Privatization and Punishment in the New Age of Reprogenetics by Dorothy Roberts