My Husband And I Made A Genetic Disorder Abortion Pact
When Rachel and her husband learned that they were pregnant, the soon-to-be-parents began to weight the possibility of having a child with a severe genetic disorder. Conceiving at the “advanced maternal age” of 35 years old, Rachel was aware that both she and her husband, aged 40, were at a higher risk for having a child with Down syndrome, among other conditions. The married couple did become pregnant naturally, a less than common occurrence for their age demographic. But they decided that should their fetus test positive for a severe genetic disorder, they would choose abortion.
In retrospect, the now mother to a healthy baby boy says that she and her husband mainly considered quality of a life. With an approach to spirituality that involves strands of reincarnation, Rachel maintains that she and her husband considered what the baby would ultimately prefer.
“We had to ask ourselves what we would want if we were the fetus. Life is challenging enough when you have all of your physical and emotional capacities in check. If I were the embryo and my mother had the choice, I would choose to come back in a healthier body,” she says.
Emotionally, both pro-choice parents worried that they could not be a sturdy support system — or “the best parents” — to a struggling child. The fear of failing a suffering kid caused both Rachel and her husband multiple panic attacks as they readied their life for a new addition. Financial components also had husband and wife realizing that they could in no way afford treatment for severe disabilities. At the time that they found themselves pregnant, Rachel had just started a new business and her husband was a teacher.
Rachel’s pact with her husband mirrors concerns some doctors have about the availability of noninvasive genetic testing. Between Daddy’s saliva and Mommy’s blood, scientists can now access a baby’s entire genome with a peek into mutations that cause autism. Other developing blood tests can determine a baby’s likelihood to be born with Down syndrome following just a few weeks after conception. And understandably, doctors are concerned for what ethical territory some parents are willing to foray into.
Dr. Arthur Caplan told ABC News that parents obtaining accurate genetic information about their unborn “will be among the most controversial forms of testing ever to appear in medicine as the debate over abortion and disabilities both shift to whole genome genetic testing.”
Marcy Darnovsky, associate executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society, told The New York Times that the accessibility of these tests will bring about “who deserves to be born” dialogues between parents and doctors.
Nevertheless, Rachel is contemplating expanding her family once again with the same approach in mind. This time both she and her husband will be even older, now “75% sure” that they will be trying for a second baby — and still 100% committed to their original abortion agreement.
“All that being said, if we did, or do in the future, have another child and they are born with a disability, we would raise them to the best of our ability and give them all the love we have to give. However, given the choice, we would allow a healthier spirit to come into the world at another time,” she prefaces.
Rachel had an abortion previously when her birth control pills failed. But having experienced the procedure once before, she says, doesn’t make the hypothetical decision any easier for her — or other women, she posits.
“It is a very personal choice and never an easy one,” she says. “There is nothing easy for women, pro-choice or not, about terminating a pregnancy. There will inevitably be an emotional hurdle to go over regardless of whether you choose to terminate because it’s not the right time or due to the future child’s quality of life or family’s emotional or financial ability to raise a child with special needs. Handling the personal emotions surrounding these decisions are difficult enough.”