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Bioethikos: Bringing Life to Bioethics

A ‘Genetic Outlaw’ Speaks Out

September 24th, 2006

A law professor in Minneapolis has recently become an “outlaw” in the eyes of some. Her crime? She chose not to have an abortion when she received a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. Elizabeth Schiltz had her baby anyway, and writes about her experience in Defiant Birth: Women Who Resist Medical Eugenics (2006, Spinifex Press). She also tells of other women who have faced severe pressure to abort because they were carrying a less-than-perfect baby.

Modern technologies have created a crisis of too much information. From the older methods of amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling, to more recent techniques for preimplantation genetic screening of embryos, women have more reasons not to have their babies than ever before. It is well known that almost 50% of fertility centers now permit screening of embryos for gender, with the “wrong” sex discarded. Many centers are able to eliminate the carriers of certain genetic traits, some of which have little or nothing to do with disease.

Primplantation genetic diagnosis, or its modern cousin, preimplantation genetic haplotyping, can now screen embryos for 6,000 different diseases. This has led Professor Schiltz to remark, “I can’t help but see 6,000 new reasons that parents will be branded as sinners or made to feel socially irresponsible for bringing their children into this world.”

What the eminently quotable James Russell Lowell has said about mishaps is surely true of modern biotechnologies: they are like knives that either serve us or cut us, as we grasp them by the blade or by the handle. The ultimate victim of all this will be human nature, sacrificed on the altar of our desire for perfection.

For more about Elizabeth Schiltz: http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jul2006/tc20060720_148057.htm

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3 Responses to “A ‘Genetic Outlaw’ Speaks Out”

  1. mozartmovement Says:

    Thanks for bringing attention to this. Our society will be much the the poorer if we become “perfect.”

  2. straightfromthehip Says:

    We each must choose our own path and tho I will agree with you that abortion is sin. We all choose to sin in this life time otherwise we would not be fallen saved by grace. We also must choose what burdens to strap ourselfs down with some of us find it easier then others to lean on the strength of a unseen Lord then others. Thanks for your post!

  3. mozartmovement Says:

    As my oldest daughter was born with severe cleft lip and palate, I’m particularly sensitized to discussions of aborting “imperfect” people. I shudder to think of the treasure that would have been missed if I’d had the option,30 years ago, of deciding whether or not I was up to the “burden” of her needs. I would have thought “no,” but (withh God’s grace) she “grew me up”, and is now speaking out for the downtrodden as a Public Defender.

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