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NIPTs as Part of the Debate

Noninvasive prenatal tests are becoming "intertwined with the politics of abortion," writes Amy Dockser Marcus at the Wall Street Journal.

The tests screen for genetic conditions, including Down syndrome, by examining cell-free DNA obtained from blood samples, and they are becoming more prevalent as they don't carry the small risk of miscarriage that's associated with chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis. Positive findings uncovered through NIPTs, Marcus notes, are typically confirmed through those more invasive tests.

But as results from NIPTs may lead some couples to terminate a pregnancy, Marcus says that the test has gotten caught up in the wider abortion debate. For instance, she reports that lawmakers in Ohio are considering a bill that would make it illegal for doctors to perform an abortion if the woman says she wants the procedure because the fetus has Down syndrome. Other states require providing women information about the syndrome if they learn their fetus will have the condition.

"I don't believe prenatal diagnosis should be used to terminate a pregnancy," says Mark Bradford, president of the Jerome Lejeune Foundation USA, a pro-life organization that funds research into treatments for genetic intellectual disability, and father of a child with Down syndrome says.

"Women have the right to know information about their health and their pregnancies," Susan Gross, chief medical officer of test-maker Natera, says. "Women, when given full information, always make the right decision for themselves and their families."