Peter J. Leithart, April 04, 2004
Agnes Howard reports in The Weekly Standard on new developments in prenatal screening. Last winter, it was reported that scientists had put together a "combination of maternal blood tests and ultrasounds to detect Down syndrome at 10-13 weeks," and a more recent report in Lancet argued for increasing access to such tests. The authors, led by Ryan A. Harris, don't want prenatal screening to be limited to high-risk mothers: "They content that women are much more worried about having a Down syndrome baby than they are about losing a normal baby to miscarriage after the test. The costs of the test, they argue, are amply repaind by either the reassurance that the baby is normal or the ability to avoid the difficulties of having a Down syndrome child."
On a recent Mars Hill interview with Ken Myers, Leon Kass pointed out how this kind of "advance" changes the "moral horizons" even for people who refuse to use the new technologies. The simple fact that such screening is possible means that anyone who refuses to do so must make a conscious decision; it takes an act of will for a mother to decide she doesn't want to screen her child, to pre-select it as a kind of quality control method. That is not only an act of will, but an act of countercultural and even "anti-progressive" will. Ultimately, the technology has the effect of sharpening the lines between those who receive children as gifts of God (or "nature" or something) and those who want to engineer bigger and better and more perfect children. All the more reason for Christians to be honing their skills in counter-cultural living.