Skip to content

Does Prenatal Testing Make Us Less Human?

Charles Snow
Written by
Getting a test result with a fetal diagnosis can cause significant uncertainty and anxiety. Some women feel their only choice is to have an abortion.

I’m fascinated by the story of Elizabeth Holmes.

Her rise was earth-shattering. She dropped out of Stanford at 19, built what was thought to be one of the most innovative companies in the world, and wooed investors to the tune of more than $700 million.

But what goes up must come down.

The company she founded, Theranos, claimed to have a technology that could test for more than 1,000 medical conditions with a few simple drops of blood.

As it turned out, the technology never really worked. In January, Holmes was convicted of fraud. She could face decades in prison.

But what does her rise and fall have to do with abortion?

A recent report by The New York Times examined the efficacy—and promises—of prenatal testing. The companies that design and make prenatal tests promise a lot, from “peace of mind” to “total confidence” in their supposed “highly accurate” results. But The Times found that “[f]or every 15 times [the tests] correctly find a problem … they are wrong 85 times.”

That doesn’t inspire “total confidence.”

The Times report recounted numerous horror stories from pregnant women whose prenatal testing revealed their child to have a genetic disorder, only for subsequent testing to show the baby to be healthy.

Getting a test result with a fetal diagnosis can cause significant uncertainty and anxiety. Some women feel their only choice is to have an abortion. In fact, many parents have experienced medical professionals pressuring them to make that exact choice. Such is the experience of parents of children with Down syndrome.

According to Sarah Zhang of The Atlantic, “Down syndrome is frequently called the ‘canary in the coal mine’ for selective reproduction.” Unlike the prenatal tests described in the Times report, prenatal testing for Down syndrome is highly accurate and, sadly, highly deadly.

Scientists in countries like Iceland have boasted that their countries have “eradicated” Down syndrome. But they haven’t eradicated the genetic condition. Instead, through prenatal testing, they’ve eradicated a group of people. In Iceland, nearly 100% of pregnant women who learn that their child has Down syndrome abort the child.

This practice is not confined to Europe. The rate of abortions based on a Down syndrome diagnosis is rising in the U.S. as well. Advanced technology is costing lives, rather than saving them.

As Sarah Williams has written for Plough, “Testing for fetal abnormalities is not a neutral practice. It sends a message.” And the message is clear—babies with genetic disorders aren’t worthy of being born. They’re burdens on society. The “right” thing to do is kill them.

To combat this deadly stigma, some states have passed laws banning abortions based on a Down syndrome diagnosis alone. In fact, last April, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed into law SB 1457, which ensures that unborn children cannot be discriminated against for reasons of genetic abnormalities.

As ADF Senior Counsel Denise Burke said at the time, “No one should be discriminated against because of his or her genetic makeup, especially unborn children who are marked for death simply because a medical test has indicated they might carry a genetic anomaly, like Down syndrome.”

While laws like this have been challenged in federal court and face opposition from powerful pro-abortion groups like Planned Parenthood, they are essential to protecting the dignity of human life. And Alliance Defending Freedom will engage in litigation and advocacy to protect the laws and, thereby, the vulnerable.

“The most important political movement now is the movement to become human again,” says Christian writer Susannah Black.

For our society “to become human again,” we must stand for the most vulnerable among us.

Learn more about how ADF is protecting life and how you can get involved.


Charles Snow, Senior Copywriter & Editor
Charles Snow
Senior Copywriter & Editor
Charles Snow serves as Senior Copywriter & Editor at Alliance Defending Freedom, where he supports ADF's communications and fundraising efforts.