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Difficult Decisions

Earlier non-invasive prenatal testing can lead to difficult decisions for prospective parents, USA Today writes. "Rapid technological advances are opening up a new era, doctors say — one in which couples have an unprecedented glimpse of the forming child, and with this new information an often-wrenching choice: proceed with the pregnancy or terminate it," it adds.

Because they are not invasive, early screens will likely appeal to more women, the paper adds, noting that only about 2 percent of women opt for invasive testing, though such tests may be used to confirm NIPT results. Newer cell-free DNA screens, like the one from Sequenom, among other companies, can be conducted as early as nine weeks. Early results allow women with negative results to bypass invasive screening and enable women with positive results to, if they choose, undergo an earlier termination, which carries fewer risks, USA Today says.

While advances in technology are giving prospective parents more information, and earlier, the choice they face remains the same. "This technology has not given us some way to magically prevent the condition or cure the baby," Ruth Faden, director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, says. "The pregnancy will be terminated or the baby will be born with it."

And that decision is intensely personal. Melanie Perkins McLaughlin, who received a Down syndrome diagnosis 20 weeks into her pregnancy, continued her pregnancy and now talks to other prospective parents with that diagnosis. "I would never in a million years judge them," McLaughlin tells USA Today. "Who is anybody else to judge somebody in that situation? Even if you've been in that position, with a prenatal diagnosis, everyone is an individual and every situation is different."