In this essay, I will argue that prenatal screening for disabilities for the intent of actively choosing to have a child without a disability is immoral. By disability, I mean the definition provided in a medical dictionary: “A disadvantage or deficiency, especially a physical or mental impairment that prevents or restricts normal achievement”. This does not include diseases that are considered inevitably and irreversibly fatal, nor does it include birth situations that are considered detrimental to the mother. I will use the term “possible child” hereafter to avoid loaded and biased terms such as “fetus” or “baby”.
My argument is this: First, when one makes a conscious decision to have a child, the philosophical theory of ethical voluntarism applies. Second, the defiance to this theory does not include prenatal genetic screening, unless abortion or termination is included. Third, genetic screening is an unreliable way to judge one’s quality of life. My argument against the morality of prenatal genetic screening in order to avoid having children could be refuted if it was proven unethical. The two methods by which to judge the ethics of prenatal genetic screening in order to avoid having a disabled possible child are: the basic principals of medical ethics, and the quality of life for the possible child. However, the argument of prenatal genetic screening with the intent of not having a possible child with a disability does not fall under a principal of medical ethics, and the quality of life for the possible child is not consistent enough to be proven. Thus, my argument—that it is immoral to use prenatal genetic screening for disabilities as a means of deciding whether to terminate a possible child—holds.
First, when one makes a conscious decision to have a child, the philosophical theory of voluntarism apples. According to a quick reference to The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, ethical voluntarism is the position that it is will or desire that creates values. With the situation that one deliberately chooses to have a child comes the understood acceptance of the various responsibilities that come with having a child. This includes the many risks that children face in development and safety in current times. If a child was to fall down the steps in infancy and thus be inflicted with cognitive defects and developmental problems for the rest of its life, the parent would not simply take the child back to the hospital and start over because they are not going to have an outcome that they specifically foresaw and desired. This would be deemed horrific by social standards. The parent would take on the responsibility that was long ago accepted: that one faces certain risks and uncertainties that must be handled if one wishes to pursue parenthood. This ethical theory has most recently been made popular by Elizabeth Bank on fathers who claim no responsibility for their children. Her same theory applies in this circumstance. If one wishes to become pregnant, they accept the challenges that might come, including disability. They do not terminate a disabled possible child for a do-over.
Second, the defiance to this theory does not include prenatal genetic screening, unless abortion or termination is included. I am certainly not arguing against the use of prenatal genetic screening for the purpose of information and preparation. I applaud parents who take the responsible action to be fully prepared for the coming of a child. Screening affords parents to obtain many different kids of preparation: counseling, on how to successfully parent a disabled child; necessary environmental preparation like house proofing or handicap alterations; in-home medical preparations including home health care; necessary insurance modifications; or even seeking out specialists early in the gestation process for medical treatment or health care plans. There are many clinical trials in prenatal...