Thursday, January 5, 2006

Amniocentesis: some facts and recommendations

Many people have concerns about the legitimacy of amniocentesis as a form of pre-natal testing. Many times when the prognosis is negative, the mother is heavily pressured to abort the child. This is quite a long-winded post, but I hope to give you plenty of good information.

Many women are pressured and almost “guilted” to undergo the amniocentesis procedure, even when it is not medically necessary. This could be due to the medical community’s obsession with eugenics, which has been fostered since before World War I. This is a tragic reality of the medical profession.

Amniocentesis is used for several reasons, including determining the Rh factor in the baby’s blood. It is only necessary to check the Rh factor of the child if the mother is Rh-. There are only risks associated if the Mother is Rh- and the child is Rh+. If this is the case, there can be an in-utero blood transfusion to avoid further complications. Abortion is not necessary. The mother’s Rh factor is not checked through amniocentesis, but through a simple blood test in the arm.

As you know, amniocentesis is often used to for testing for Downs Syndrome or other birth defects. Most often, this is used to pressure the woman to abort as mentioned earlier, however it can also be used to prepare for a high-risk delivery or for an in-utero surgery to correct the problem. But, the procedure itself can cause a stillborn (miscarried) child between 1 in 200 and 1 in 300 times because of its invasive nature. The child can suffer stab wounds that will usually lead to still birth.

On this same topic, the chance of a child being born with Downs Syndrome is 1 in 800 live births. This is lower than the chance that a child will die from the testing procedure! The instance of giving birth to a child with Downs is higher with the increased age of the mother. A chart can be see here, but because the rate only reaches 1 in 200 to 1 in 300 between ages36 and 38, and 9% of births are of women older than 35, we can still draw a very logical conclusion here.

The instance of Downs Syndrome or any other fetal abnormality is higher with IVF (which is always an illicit procedure), yet many times even children conceived through IVF are tested for Downs and subsequently aborted. (It is also worth noting that women who abort a "wanted" child because of the health of the child suffer more from post-abortion syndrome than mothers who abort for most other reasons.)

The 1987 document Donum Vitae from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith specifically addresses this question in Section I, Number 2. There, they say:

Is Prenatal Diagnosis Morally Licit?

If prenatal diagnosis respects the life and integrity of the embryo and the human fetus and is directed towards its safeguarding or healing as an individual, then the answer is affirmative.

For prenatal diagnosis makes it possible to know the condition of the embryo and of the fetus when still in the mother's womb. It permits, or makes it possible to anticipate earlier and more effectively, certain therapeutic, medical or surgical procedures.
Such diagnosis is permissible, with the consent of the parents after they have been adequately informed, if the methods employed safeguard the life and integrity of the embryo and the mother, without subjecting them to disproportionate risks. But this diagnosis is gravely opposed to the moral law when it is done with the thought of possibly inducing an abortion, depending upon the results: a diagnosis which shows the existence of a malformation or a hereditary illness must not be the equivalent of a death-sentence. Thus a woman would be committing a gravely illicit act if she were to request such a diagnosis with the deliberate intention of having an abortion should the results confirm the existence of a malformation or abnormality. The spouse or relatives or anyone else would similarly be acting in a manner contrary to the moral law if they were to counsel or impose such a diagnostic procedure on the expectant mother with the same intention of possibly proceeding to an abortion. So too the specialist would be guilty of illicit collaboration if, in conducting the diagnosis and in communicating its results, he were deliberately to contribute to establishing or favoring a link between prenatal diagnosis and abortion.

In conclusion, any directive or program of the civil and health authorities or of scientific organizations which in any way were to favor a link between prenatal diagnosis and abortion, or which were to go as far as directly to induce expectant mothers to submit to prenatal diagnosis planned for the purpose of eliminating fetuses which are affected by malformations or which are carriers of hereditary illness, is to be condemned as a violation of the unborn child's right to life and as an abuse of the prior rights and duties of the spouses.

Please see the entire document here.

For women who do have a child with an adverse prenatal diagnosis, there are a few things for her to know. First of all, they are not always accurate. Many times, children are expected to be born with all types of abnormalities or syndromes, but are perfectly fine. Nonetheless, a child is always made in the image and likeness of God regardless of how the child looks or what the health of the child is.

Secondly, there are many organizations to assist families with adverse prenatal diagnosis. Two such programs are Christian Homes and Special Kids and Alexandra’s House Perinatal Hospice.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article, Mary. Naomi Wolf says very nearly the same things about amniocentesis in her book, Misconceptions, and she is pro-choice.