Winner 14-16 yr. group
Society seeks a perfect race. The competitors include prenatal babies. For many years scientists have tried many different techniques to detect diseases in babies, but all of them had failed. Recent developments in technology, however, have made it possible to diagnose fetal illnesses wile the baby is in the womb. Aside from the medical problems with these techniques, there are profound moral questions that need to be answered.
One of the most widely used methods is called amniocentesis. Fluid is drawn from the womb and then analyzed for diseases. Amniocentesis is usually used to detect retarded babies or babies with spina bifida, a disease in which the spine does not grow properly and the child is paralyzed.(1) If there is something inconsistent in the chromosome count, the parents often abort the child.
Ultrasound is a method in which sound waves are used to make a picture of the baby. A sound wave generator and detector is run over the mother’s belly, and the sound waves are transformed into a picture in which the doctor can see if the form is normal, if the baby is in the womb properly, and if the child is male or female.
Fetoscopy, a fairly new method, is when the doctor inserts a telescope into the womb and checks the baby’s condition. It is only used for high risk people, and as a last resort, because the technology is so new.
But all these techniques are not completely safe. Dr. James Ford, a leading physician against the abuse of these techniques, says: “Although (these techniques) are excellent when compared with other medical procedures, (they are) quite unacceptable in prenatal diagnosis.” (2)
The natural defect rate is less than one percent, but the techniques exaggerate this defect rate.
The diagnosis is not always correct. If a healthy baby is diagnosed as diseased, it could be aborted. On the other hand, a deformed baby could be born when it is diagnosed as healthy.
The complications do not stop there. When a deformed baby is aborted, it is killed in the womb and is born dead. But sometimes abortions fail, and the baby survives(3). To save face for the doctors and the hospital, these babies are killed after birth by denying them food, giving them an overdose, or by some other deadly methods. Because the child is already considered dead by abortion, the nurses show a frightening disregard for this puny life. Disregard for the baby in the womb has spread to post-natal, aborted but living, or deformed babies.
Dangers to the baby also lie in the techniques themselves. Amniocentesis raised the chances of having a deformed baby by 6%. The dangers lie in the insertion of the needle, and the lack of fluid for the baby’s normal growth. The baby nets to stretch and grow, but the fluid tapped for testing could be the difference between a healthy or an unhealthy child(4).
Since ultrasound emits high-pitched sound waves, these could impair the baby’s hearing. At this time in the pregnancy, organs are delicate and sound waves could hurt them. According to a worker in the Ottawa pro-life educational centre, the Canadian government recently sent out a memo to caution hospitals on the use of ultrasound.(5) This could mean that ultrasound, a widely used and abused technique, may not be so safe.
X-rays, which are not used for prenatal diagnosis anymore, are harmful because of the radiation waves. Like many techniques today, doctors used them first and questioned their safety later. As a result, a dangerous technique was widely used. Let us hope this pattern does not repeat itself.
Fetoscopy is also dangerous because the womb is penetrated. According to one doctor, all of these penetration techniques will have a high risk in them, and we should think about this risk.(6)
But the parents are not without problems either. Profound psychological strains stem from the worry of whether the child is normal or not. This is why abortion is used as a “solution” for deformed babies, because the parent is under such pressures to have a normal child, that if it is not, they usually abort.
If a healthy child is aborted, the parents feel cheated, and sorry for themselves. If they have to raise a mongoloid child, they may be filled with anger over the pre-natal diagnosis which looked accurate safe, but does not live up to their expectations. Many such parents demand euthanasia. Either way, the parents are affected greatly.
Cost is another factor. Since amniocentesis is covered by O.H.I.P (Ontario Hospital Insurance Plan), the price is on the shoulders of the taxpayers and contributors to O.H.I.P. The distribution of cost is unfair, because this is such a morally questionable topic that many people are against. Since less than one percent of pregnancies are abnormal, a lot of money is wasted on this small minority. Although amniocentesis is a simple laboratory procedure, it is an expensive endeavor. The cost is high when considering the small benefit prenatal detection brings.
This money could be used in the search for a cure for these now incurable diseases. With sufficient funding, these diseases could become obsolete, and abortion would not become the only solution to escaping the responsibilities of a deformed child.
When Dr. William Lilley invented amniocentesis, he intended it to be only used as a diagnostic tool for the safer and better treatment of diseases after the child is born. It was meant mainly for Rh (Rhesus) incompatibility, where the baby’s and the mother’s blood were different types. This incompatibility puts the baby’s life in danger.(7) He is solidly against the abuse of this technique today, and is strongly pro-life.(8)
Instead, we have subjected Dr. Liley’s method to a ‘search and destroy’ mentality.(9) We, as a society, search for deformed babies and abort them, all for the cause of a ‘perfect race’. We cover up this act by saying it is “morally justified or the relief of suffering and burden to family and society,” (10) meaning we can abort deformed babies to relieve other people, cut government spending, and abort children to take them out of their misery. Hundreds of testimonials, however, show us differently.
Susan Moffat, a girl who escaped the odds of abortion and was born with spina bifida, tells us she is proud of her life and lives it to the fullest. (11) This is hardly what you would expect from someone who is in misery!
Susan Moffat shows us we use this technique only for our convenience, and as an extension of our ‘throw away’ mentality.
Society is questing for a perfect race. We want every person to be perfect, and try to avoid ‘failures.’ Prenatal screening is only a part of the picture — euthanasia, abortion-on-demand, and insensitivity to old people are all signs of how society is abusing medical technology for convenience. These techniques violate fundamental rights of the baby in the womb. We abuse these rights, by violating the womb with needles, telescopes, damaging radiation and with sound waves. If we would follow the rights of the unborn child, we would see a new regard for life in all aspects.
“Technology has hastened us to the disregard and disrespect of life. Our morality fist has to catch up with our technology.” (12) We have to think several things out and answer some questions first. In the future, technology will be advancing even more quickly.
Soon, we will make new developments and advances that will make our present techniques look barbaric. For example, a doctor will be able to determine the sex of a baby with a simple blood test from the mother. We will discover exactly how our genes work, and we have a report of the child’s height, eye color, and other physical details before it is born. What is only holding us back is the technological limitations and the lack of funding.(13)
Of course, such technology, with which our morality is running a losing race, could only be abused even farther. For maximum efficiency, society would be planned by a large computer, and all babies not matching up to its standards would be aborted. A totally and perfectly planned society would emerge, but it is frightening to think of. Society would then be a society of perfect humanoids.
The techniques used today are not totally safe. We have to make decisions based on moral principles as well as on the benefits and hazards of technology. This is another example of the dilemma presented by technology.
- Ontario Science Centre, Diagnosis Before Birth (a pamphlet)
- Dr. James Ford, Disabled In Danger (a pamphlet)
- Nick Thimmesch, When Abortions Fail: The Unborn’s Uncertain Destiny. (a pamphlet)
- Right to Life league of Southern California, Amniocentesis Not So Safe. (a pamphlet)
- Ottawa Action Life, Inc., Worker’s Statement (March 22, 1984)
- David Suzuki, Prenatal Diagnosis: To Be Or Not To Be (Film: National Film Board of Canada, 1975)
- Dr. Kymie Gordon, Mayo Genetics Expert Talks about Amniocentesis (a pamphlet)
- Professor Jerome Le Jeune and Dr. Albert William Liley, The Tiniest Humans (Robert Sassone, 1977), page 6.
- Bill Gladstone, “A Very Proper Procedure?” Quest, date not available, pg. 54
- Gladstone, page 53
- Ottawa Action Life, Inc., Prenatal Screening Made Easier (a pamphlet)
- Mrs. M. Tanner, The Slippery Slope (a discussion, March 6, 1984)
- Gladstone, page 57