The Danish Ethics Council has declared that future foetal examinations run the risk of ’extensive genetic hygiene practices’ which could result in increased abortion rates.
In its report ‘Future Foetal Diagnostics’ the Ethics Council argues that the overall health of the foetus should be the only investigation performed by new hi-tech systems which in the coming years are expected to reveal increasingly more characteristics.
The council has expressed fears that more women may choose to abort if they are presented with unwanted characteristics. Ten of the 17 Council members have proposed stronger controls over what can be tested for prior to the 12-week termination limit for pregnancy. The report also claims that new technology should be utilised only for women whose foetuses have a risk of deformity or serious illness
News source Politiken has reported that in a matter of years new developments in diagnostic technology will reveal the foetus’s predisposition for characteristics such as weight, height and even intelligence.
Council member Klavs Birkholm claimed: “Through maternal blood analyses we will soon be able to get much more information about the foetus. We will (be able to) see a long list of lesser illnesses but also normal characteristics such as height and weight, gender, eye colour and the suchlike. The question is, if we gather all this information, whether we should leave it to the individual family to determine whether this is a foetus that they want. I don’t think so”.
Birkholm agreed that it was not possible to prevent parents from rejecting a foetus which displayed unwanted characteristics. “We cannot forbid this. We don’t want to introduce more restrictive abortion rules. But it is a problem if we begin to generate all sorts of information on everyone. The result will be something that society in general may not want – a perfected population in which something that is divergent, weak, unusual becomes so strange that society will not take as much care of them as it currently does,” Birkholm stated.