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FIRST-PERSON: The good & (all the) bad of prenatal testing

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
DALLAS (BP) -- As Rick Santorum left the presidential race, he also left the nation better educated on the sanctity of human life. His daughter Bella's recent hospitalization, her second during heavy campaigning months for her dad, took him off the campaign trail and to her side. An "inconvenience," some might say, but one the Santorum's chose, when they chose life for Bella, their seventh child.

Bella has a genetic disorder known as Trisomy 18, or Edwards Syndrome, which impairs development and often leads to death in childhood. Increasingly, prenatal testing allows this disorder to be detected before birth. About 90 percent of babies diagnosed prenatally with a serious disability, even Down syndrome -- which can be relatively mild -- are aborted. But for Bella, the Santorum's chose life.

Jeanne Monahan, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, fears this phenomenon, which she calls "the next genocide," will get much worse with a new, easier prenatal test -- a highly accurate molecular test for Down syndrome, called MaterniT 21. Ms. Monahan says this test, which requires only a sample of the mother's blood, will be covered by the national health care law ("ObamaCare").

Ms. Monahan says prenatal testing is not "inherently evil." Sometimes these tests detect conditions for which doctors can then treat the baby in utero. But she told CNN, "the fact that it leads to so many abortions is absolutely troubling."

Family Research Council held a conference recently for medical students and health care professionals. One of the speakers was Kristal Dahlager, a third year law student at Liberty University. Kristal said prenatal testing can be -- and often is -- used as a way to "target persons with disabilities for abortions." Kristal herself faced this. Just as her mother went into labor with her, doctors found problems with Kristal's heart, lungs and brain. They also said she had no arms or legs and a mineral deficiency that would cause her bones to break in natural birth. They told her parents that she was a "completely hopeless defective" and that if she was allowed to be born, "she'll just ruin your life." The Dahlagers were advised to abort.


But Kristal's mom had a C-Section to protect the baby's bones. Yes, Kristal was born with a disability. But her heart, lungs, arms, legs and brain were all fine. She speaks to groups, from a wheelchair, and is grateful to her parents for her life.

There is a bill making its way through Congress, the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, which would ban sex-selection or race-selection abortions. This bill, or another, should also address the disabled. New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith, a champion for pro-life legislation, says children, whether they are "sick, disabled or healthy" possess "fundamental human rights that no sane or compassionate society can abridge."

Back in the 1960s when prenatal testing emerged, medical technology got ahead of our medical ethics and never caught up. Prenatal testing and the medical personnel involved are convincing far too many women to abort. We must change this.

Penna Dexter is a conservative activist and frequent panelist on the "Point of View" syndicated radio program. Her weekly commentaries air on the Bott and Moody radio networks. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).


Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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