Nathaniel Centre cautions on pre-birth testing

The Nathaniel Centre has expressed concern that pre-birth testing could further marginalise the most vulnerable in our society’the unborn and the disabled.

The Nathaniel Centre has expressed concern that pre-birth testing could further marginalise the most vulnerable in our society—the unborn and the disabled.

The government’s Bioethics Council released a report last month on the cultural, ethical and spiritual aspects of pre-birth testing which the Nathaniel Centre says in a June 19 news release shows broad acceptance among New Zealanders that pre-birth testing must be regulated to some degree. This acceptance reflects a deeper awareness of the power that technology has to reshape our perceptions of pregnancy, parenthood and the way we think about and view children in a negative way.

‘We are disturbed that there is a growing trend among some to equate the right to life with the absence of disease or with a certain notion of normality.’

Embryos with genetic abnormalities have as much right to exist and be selected as those supposedly free of genetic abnormalities.

‘The availability of PGD in effect fosters a situation whereby the protections around the right to life of specific groups of persons are removed on the basis of their genetic makeup. This sets a bad precedent.’

Love demands that parents welcome children unconditionally.
‘It seems to us that one of the critical issues highlighted by the report is the need to create a society that will welcome all children equally. Our efforts and resources need to be aimed at the promotion of a just society.’

The centre also welcomes the report’s highlighting of widespread public concern about New Zealand’s high abortion rate. On receiving their test results couples are under pressure to quickly decide whether to proceed with a pregnancy.
‘This situation is hardly conducive to free and informed decision-making. Given time and appropriate counselling, couples will be in a position to see the situation from a different and less emotive perspective which could lead to very different decisions being made’.
The centre says it is encouraging to see that information must not present termination as the automatic option, but ‘this does not go far enough’.

‘We would like to say that the debate is not just about choice and balanced information but also about paying close attention to the broader context in which couples are making their choices.’

The centre says it’s concerned that couples will find it harder to choose not to be tested or to continue with a pregnancy when results show a disorder.
‘The proper role of pre-birth testing is to help parents to prepare the best they can for their new child or to enable medical interventions that are aimed at the wellbeing of the child in-utero, not to eliminate certain types of children.’

The council’s report is clear that many people were uneasy with using technology for social reasons and more investigation of these concerns about the possibilities of pre-birth sex selection is warranted.
‘But then inexplicably recommends that there are insufficient reasons to ban it!’
If all the reports recommendations are heeded, we will be moving towards a ‘less just and inclusive society’.
For more information phone the Nathaniel Centre, 04-499 2251.