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23 / 01 / 2009 - British Religious and Pro-Life Leaders Warn of Growth of `New Eugenics` in Pre-Natal Testing and Embryo Screening
The Roman Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have joined with pro-life advocates in warning that a possible pre-natal test for autism in children could be a step towards a “new eugenic” pogrom against the disabled.
Scientists at Cambridge University earlier this month announced that research had shown that high levels of testosterone in amniotic fluid could be a factor in autism and suggested that the discovery could be used to create a test. Unborn babies who tested “positive” could be legally killed under British law that allows unrestricted abortion of children suspected of having “severe” disabilities.
A spokesman for the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales issued a statement January 13 warning, “What our society is contemplating are the first steps of a truly revolutionary and inhuman path.”
“The only way out is to rediscover the fundamental dignity and value of every human life from its first beginnings,” he said. “Without this firm moral bedrock, we are in grave danger of sliding inexorably toward a new eugenics.”
Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Cambridge centre for autism research was widely quoted saying that there should be a debate on the use of such tests since some people with autism also display “talents” that are needed by society. “If [such a test] was used to 'prevent' autism, with doctors advising mothers to consider termination of the pregnancy if their baby tested 'positive', what else would be lost in reducing the number of children born with autism? Would we also reduce the number of future great mathematicians, for example?”
“Caution is needed before scientists embrace prenatal testing so that we do not inadvertently repeat the history of eugenics or inadvertently 'cure' not just autism but the associated talents that are not in need of treatment,” Baron-Cohen said.
But pro-life advocates warned that this kind of thinking is flawed from the start, in that it proposes that some children are intrinsically more valuable than others because of certain attributes.
A spokesman for Britain’s National Autistic Society, the group that supports people with autism and their families, said in a statement in early January that many of their members were “understandably worried about the impact genetic or prenatal testing may have on their lives and on public perception of the condition in the future.”
Around the same time as the news of the potential autism test broke, the press reported the birth of the first baby girl in Britain who had been “screened” or selected as an embryo for resistance to breast cancer. Doctors at University College Hospital in London had created a number of embryos through in vitro fertilisation for the baby's parents and screened them for the variant BRCA1 gene that indicates a high risk for breast and ovarian cancer.
Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE) said, “The birth of this child is a cause for celebration, as every birth should be. But we also need to consider the embryos who were not given the chance to live. Those embryos were deemed inferior and rejected.”
She continued, “We have to ask where all this is leading and we must not be afraid of confronting the word ‘eugenics’.”
Source: Hilary White - LifeSiteNews.com