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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Prenatal Testing and Abortion

 In The Politics of Autism, I explain:
When a pregnancy is under way, doctors can detect certain kinds of disorders, but neither amniocentesis nor any other prenatal test can currently tell us whether a fetus will become autistic. Suppose that such a test did exist. “The best case use of a prenatal test at the moment would be if you could say to a parent, your child has got an 80 percent likelihood of autism and so once the baby's born, we would like to keep a close eye on that child in case they need extra support like speech therapy or social skills training or some sort of behavioral approach,” says leading autism scientist Simon Baron-Cohen. But would the “best case use” be the most common? When amniocentesis indicates Down Syndrome, most mothers choose abortion. A study of autism parents in Taiwan found that just over half would abort if a prenatal test indicated that their next child would be autistic. We cannot be sure what the figures would be if such tests were available in the United States, but it seems likely that a large share of autism pregnancies would end in abortion.
 In Burlington, NC, Elizabeth Pattman reports at The Times-News:
LabCorp has received a patent on a method for diagnosing autism spectrum disorders.

The method, invented by David Michael Margulies and Mark Firman Bear of Massachusetts, involves taking a tissue or body sample from a subject and then conducting a test to identify variant sequences in the subject’s genetic code, which may signify “the presence or an increased risk of developing autism spectrum disorders.” Testing can be done on children and fetuses, according to the patent.

The method is stated to aid in the diagnosis of five autism spectrum disorders, all of which fall under the umbrella of pervasive developmental disorders: autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, Rett’s disorder, and nonspecific pervasive developmental disorders.