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The Abortion Controversy Intensifies

Perhaps the most divisive moral issue in America is the practice of abortion on demand. The advance of genetic knowledge and the development of more sophisticated reproductive technologies will only add nuance and subtlety to an already complicated debate. Techniques have been developed to examine in vitro fertilized (IVF) eggs as early as the fourth cell division in order to identify so-called “defective” genes, such as the chromosomal structure of Down's syndrome. Prospective parents may soon be able to fertilize a dozen or so eggs in the laboratory, screen for the preferred genetic make-up, implant the desired zygote(s), and discard the rest. What will be the status of the discarded preembryos? Might they be considered abortions? By what criteria do we define “defective” when considering the future of a human being? Should prospective parents limit themselves to eliminating unhealthy  children, or should they go on to screen for desired genetic traits such as blue eyes or higher intelligence? If so, might this lead to a new form of eugenics, to selective breeding based upon personal preference and prevailing social values? What will become of human dignity in all this?"HUGO Statement on Patenting of DNA Sequences," HUGO Americas, 7986-D Old Georgetown Road, Bethesda MD 20814, USA. Report in Human Genome News, 6:6 (March-April 1995) 5.

The ethical question we face today is; by what criterion do we deem a genetically defective or undesirable fetus abortable? This was not addressed by Roe v. Wade in 1973. The present practice of abortion by choice prior to the third trimester places the choice with the pregnant woman (actually her doctor), but it does not provide distinctively ethical criteria for distinguishing better from worse choices.

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The Abortion Controversy Intensifies

Genetics & Ethics: Topics Index
Genetics Research
Genetic Discrimination
Preventing Genetic Discrimination
Where Does the Church Stand?
Testing Early in Pregnancy
Patenting God’s Creation?
Should Genes Be Patented?
Patenting Genes – Some Perspectives
The Gene Myth
DNA and Social Behavior?
The Gay Gene?
Treating Faulty DNA
Improving our DNA
Are We Asking Our Scientists to Play God?
Is DNA the Essence of Life?


Ted Peters
Dr. Ted Peters


See also:

Pain and Suffering
What Makes us Human?
The Cognitive and Neurosciences
Are we Free?
The Relation of Science & Religion
Books on Biology, Genetics and Theology
Egg Manipulation
DNA Double-Helix