The Impact of Abortion After Prenatal Testing
Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy and Ian Gentles

 Note: The following is an excerpt from the book Women's Health After Abortion and copied from the site www/

 In advanced industrial countries, prenatal testing in order to detect fetal abnormalities has become routine. The amount of genetic information that has become available has expanded enormously in the past few years. While there are a number of ways of carrying out these tests, for each of them there is a danger of inaccurate results, and for some of them there is the additional hazard of injury to the fetus.

In past decades little emphasis has been placed on the psychological outcome for women who abort a child owing to genetic disorders following prenatal diagnosis. But one significant change in recent years has been the growing amount of available genetic information about individual fetuses. This information increases the likelihood that a woman will have an for abortion, perhaps at a late stage in her pregnancy.

Parents Unprepared for Diagnosis

Pregnant women and their partners are often unprepared for the news that they are carrying a "defective" fetus. An abortion undergone in haste and under coercive pressure can have devastating consequences, not only for the parents, but for their other children. Is enough being done to inform women about the implications of prenatal testing, and to provide them with alternative choices to abortion when tests prove positive?

There often appears to be dissonance between the practitioner's understanding of the purpose of prenatal diagnosis and the pregnant woman's perception of the procedure. While the practitioner may view the diagnostic tests as a way of preventing the birth of a "defective" child, pregnant women seek them out for reassurance that their babies are well and healthy.1 For many expectant couples, the link between prenatal testing and abortion, at least initially, does not exist.2 Even when birth defects and abortions are explicitly discussed, the pregnant woman and her partner often simply do not link this outcome to prenatal diagnosis.3

This may be in part because genetic counselors do not make this link explicit to their clients. In her study of the effects of prenatal diagnosis on the dynamics of pregnancy, Barbara Katz Rothman found that, while genetic counselors might presume that selective abortion would follow the detection of an anomaly, rarely did they offer any information about actual abortion procedures. Indeed, some did not even include a discussion of abortion in the first counseling session.4 Furthermore, they do not provide information favorable to children with special needs.


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