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Prenatal Testing, Reproductive Autonomy, and Disability Interests


The issue of prenatal testing and selective abortion has never received open public appraisal. This is somewhat regrettable. The interest in this area, however, is rapidly growing. In part this is a result of concerns about the rate of development in genetic knowledge and questions as to its application. For instance, there will be a huge increase in the scope of conditions or features for which we will be able to screen, some of which could hardly be described as significant. Further, for some time now, people with disabilities have had concerns about the practice of prenatal testing and selective abortion. This article looks at the relationship between reproductive autonomy, prenatal testing and associated practices, and the interests of people with disabilities. It asks whether such practices negatively affect the interests of such individuals, and if so, how. This is an important question for the formulation of public policy in this area. Although some groups have studied this issue in detail, policy bodies do not necessarily fully engage with their analyses. This may be a reflection of public confusion about this issue. To some degree, fear of causing offense may also inhibit both expression of public opinion and, in turn, policy analysis. This is unfortunate and needs to be acknowledged.I am grateful to participants of the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine—King's College London—Oxford Consortium on Bioethics, 2003, for comments on an earlier draft of this paper and particularly to Professor Jonathan Glover and Dr. Bobbie Farsides for conversations relating to it.

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Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics
  • ISSN: 0963-1801
  • EISSN: 1469-2147
  • URL: /core/journals/cambridge-quarterly-of-healthcare-ethics
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