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New, Safer Test For Down Syndrome Sparks Ethical Concerns

BOSTON — Some Boston-area doctors are concerned that a new prenatal test for Down syndrome will lead to a rise in abortions. The test became available this week in 20 U.S. cities, including Boston.

Dr. Brian Skotko, of the Down syndrome program at Children’s Hospital Boston, said the test is expected to become popular among expectant parents because it’s non-invasive, and therefore poses no risk of miscarriage.

“The open question becomes, as women — more women — learn about the diagnosis prenatally, will more women choose to terminate their pregnancy, and will (we) slowly start to see, therefore, babies with Down syndrome disappear?”

Skotko said he’s done studies on what it means for families to have a child with Down syndrome.

“These statistics suggest that many, if not the majority, of families who have a member with Down syndrome find a lot of positive and even rewarding aspects to having someone with that condition,” Skotko said. “And I think it’s this sort of information that might be shocking, if not surprising, to many Americans, because this information might be counter to some of the misperception that might exist within our societal norms.”

Skotko said he hopes that this kind of information will be provided to parents who choose to screen for Down syndrome during pregnancy.

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