Broadening NIPT will lead to even more abortion

The NIPT test is intended to detect unborn children with Down syndrome so that they can be killed. Now the NIPT test is in danger of also being used to detect children with other disabilities.

Broadening NIPT will lead to even more abortion


The Netherlands - Pregnant women who participate in the "non-invasive prenatal test" (NIPT) to find out if their child suffers from Down syndrome will also be able to find out about any other genetic disorders that NIPT currently detects as side effects.

Active research into other genetic deficiencies

After Minister Ernst Kuipers (D66) determined that NIPT would be included in the national screening program next year, the Health Council recommended maintaining the possibility of actively investigating these "side findings" and informing parents about them. However, two ethicists and a professor of health law have expressed reservations about this in the scientific journal Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde (NTvG).

Extension to other hereditary conditions

Unfortunately not fundamental, as their starting point remains that pregnant women should be able to make "meaningful reproductive choices." Apparently, they consider aborting a child with Down syndrome such a "sensible" choice, but fear the slippery slope if the test is extended to other hereditary conditions. This could eventually lead to a child being aborted, so to speak, because of an imperfection such as a harelip.

Children with Down are Loved

Leaving aside the question of whether "meaningful" is at all manageable as a criterion for killing an unborn child, the question then immediately arises of what is or is not meaningful. Parents with a Down syndrome child, for example, often love it very much, while the child itself can lead an admittedly not very long, but happy life. This is different again with the related Edwards and Patau syndromes, which NIPT also detects.

Abortion is a grave sin

All this only illustrates how tricky it is to make the abortion - i.e. killing - of unborn children dependent on genetic testing and the judgment of doctors and parents. The killing of children, born or unborn, goes against both natural and divine law, should be opposed as a grave sin and prohibited by law.

Women hear 'side findings' even now

The yet to be formulated guideline should serve for doctors to know which genetic abnormalities to share with parents. Currently, already 4 in 1,000 pregnant women are told that a "collateral finding" was found by the NIPT, reports the RIVM. The woman can then choose to undergo follow-up testing to find out which side finding it is, for example with an amniocentesis or a chorionic villus test.

Slope is legitimized

The authors of the critical NTvG article, however, argue that if ancillary findings of NIPT are actively sought upon request, one can no longer speak of "ancillary findings" because NIPT screening will then have undergone "creeping" expansion: in other words, precisely the slippery slope that was warned about at the time NIPT was introduced. However, the authors' concept of "meaningful reproductive choices" does not eliminate this slippery slope, but rather legitimizes and reinforces it. It is then waiting for further stretching.