Jul 6, 2022 - Health

Prenatal screening brings risk in post-Roe landscape

Illustration of a surveillance camera with a congratulations balloon tied to it
Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Pregnant people who get routine prenatal screening may be at greater risk of prosecution in states with strict, new abortion bans, even if they plan to continue the pregnancy, bioethicists write in the journal Cell Reports Medicine.

The big picture: It's another way the overturning of Roe v. Wade is subsuming other forms of reproductive health care.

Driving the news: Some state prohibitions on abortion limit the right to end a pregnancy based on the information learned from ultrasounds and blood tests about the predicted sex of a fetus or genetic conditions like Down syndrome.

  • Deliberately vague legal language would prevent the return of results to any person willing to consider termination because any abortion after a positive result could be prosecuted, the authors from the Mayo Clinic and Case Western Reserve University write in a commentary out Tuesday.
  • The prohibitions could also impact assisted fertility services like pre-implantation genetic screening used to detect embryos affected by inherited conditions like Tay Sachs and Huntington's disease.

What they're saying: "Even families who do not want to terminate a pregnancy affected by a particular genetic trait may find themselves under increased surveillance and suspicion throughout the pregnancy and beyond," the authors write.

Between the lines: The authors write the effects of such laws will fall mainly on disadvantaged populations, especially women of color.

  • Many safety net providers have offered maternal-fetal care based for pregnancies that genetic testing identified as high risk.
  • The future of screening in connection with in vitro fertilization is also uncertain, though fertility services are vowing to fight any access restrictions.
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