What we do
Campaigns & Events
Abortion in N. Ireland
"I need help..."
Make a Donation
Find us on Facebook
26 / 09 / 2008 - New blood test to spot Down`s syndrome at seven weeks leads to designer babies fear
A new blood test for pregnant women that detects genetic disorders in their unborn children has raised fresh fears over 'designer babies'.
The simple test could be available in five years and can diagnose conditions such as Down' s syndrome and cystic fibrosis.
It can also give the gender of a foetus at seven weeks - five weeks earlier than current tests.
But campaigners fear some parents will use it as a way of selecting the sex of their child, simply aborting an unsuitable foetus.
Many are concerned that if it is given to all pregnant women, some will not be prepared for results that show the presence of serious diseases, which could put them under pressure to have an abortion they might regret.
Britain already has the highest rate of abortions in western Europe, with almost 200,000 a year.
Tessa Homfray, consultant in clinical genetics at St George's Hospital medical school, London, said: 'This new technique could revolutionise prenatal diagnosis.
'But the disadvantage is women could be having tests that they haven't thought about properly.
'A lot of people could have the test because it is totally safe, but they may not want the information and should not have had it in the first place.
'Women may want the test because it will reassure them that everything is great but we cannot prepare someone for an abnormal result totally.
'If people take the test without wanting the information it could be psychologically damaging.'
Other experts hailed it as being much safer than current tests for Down's syndrome.
At the moment, women believed to be at risk of carrying a baby with the condition are offered an invasive procedure called amniocentesis.
A needle is inserted into the mother's abdomen to take a sample of the fluid around the foetus.
But the test is uncomfortable and leads to miscarriage in one in 50 cases.
The new test has none of these risks. It analyses DNA from the foetus in the mother's blood. It can also establish whether male children will develop the blood-clotting disease haemophilia.
Lyn Chitty, a senior lecturer in genetics and foetal medicine at the Institute of Child Health, said: 'It is potentially a big breakthrough. But we have to be very careful about how we offer and implement it.'
However, Josephine Quintavalle, of the pro-life campaign Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said the test would be a 'tool for discrimination'.
She said: 'It does not offer any possibility except the termination of the pregnancy.
'This is a pursuit for perfection.
'Having the right sex of a child will become another quest for perfection.
'We are getting more information than we know how to handle.'
Jane Fisher, director of the charity Antenatal Results and Choices, said: 'This test would be more accurate.
'Women do need to be fully prepared for that before they embark on it. It is much more serious than having just another blood test.
'This test is not going to make it any easier for parents to end a pregnancy. It is the most painful decision parents will ever have to make.'
But many prospective parents are likely to welcome the test.
More than 8,000 Britons have cystic fibrosis, making it the most common life-threatening inherited disease.
If both parents are carriers, there is a one in four chance their children will have it. Those with the disease have a life expectancy of 31.
Down's syndrome affects 600 babies a year in Britain and 60,000 people have the condition.
Source : Daniel Martin - Daily Mail