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In the News: AUL expert quoted in Fox News story on new blood test

Mailee Smith of AUL was quoted last week in a Fox News story entitled, “Cheap Blood Test Could Detect Disorders in Fetus“:

A simple blood test may one day become a safer alternative for checking if an unborn baby has Down syndrome or other disorders, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The test, which takes a blood sample from a pregnant woman to examine the DNA of the fetus, would cost as little as $36, and could be available within four years, according to the report.

It would provide an inexpensive and much less invasive way to detect many genetic abnormalities in fetuses, but it also raises concerns among pro-life advocates who say it could result in more abortions.

“If it might more conclusively prevent false positives, it might have some benefit, but it will also likely lead to more abortions of children with disabilities,” Mailee Smith, staff counsel for Americans United for Life, told FoxNews.com.

The tests currently used to determine if an unborn child has Down syndrome are both quite invasive. One is an amniocentesis, where doctors extract amniotic fluid from around the fetus. The other is a procedure known as chorionic villus sampling, which involves the removal of a small piece of placenta tissue. Researchers hope the new test will become a safer alternative to the current procedures, which are highly accurate, but raise the mother’s risk of suffering a miscarriage.

Dr. Brian Skotko, a physician at the Children’s Hospital Boston who is on the board of directors of the National Down Syndrome Society, told FoxNews.com that many doctors aren’t adequately trained to counsel women on having children with Down syndrome, and worse, some who diagnose an expecting couple’s child with Down syndrome encourage them to terminate the pregnancy.

“The age is swiftly coming where not all possible technologic advances may bring welcomed change. Parents who have children with Down syndrome have already found much richness in life with an extra chromosome,” Skotko wrote in an article published in the BMJ in October 2009.