The next goal of the forced birth lobby: Attacking prenatal screening for fetal abnormalities

The next goal of the forced birth lobby: Attacking prenatal screening for fetal abnormalities

Most Americans have not yet internalized the lengths to which the forced birth lobby is prepared to go to ensure that women and others who become pregnant are prohibited from ending their pregnancies. In order to appreciate the dystopian vision that these people clearly have every intention of imposing, it’s necessary first to understand that for them, the overturning of Roe was simply the first step. Now that a right-wing majority on the Supreme Court has signaled its willingness to sign on to that visionone that contemplates the absolute control of women’s and others reproductive autonomythe vast and well-funded forced-birth lobby is preparing to move to the next phase.

In January 2022, 100 Republican members of Congress signed on to a letter addressed to Janet Woodcock, acting director for the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA is the government entity responsible for oversight and regulation of prenatal genetic testing, commonly sought by pregnant patients early in their pregnancy. Such testing is used to determine whether the fetus has any severe genetic or congenital abnormalities that could prompt the patient to terminate pregnancy. The letter, signed on its face page by Texas Rep. Chip Roy, Montana Sen. Steve Daines, and Minnesota Rep. Michelle Fischbach, purported to express concern about potential false positives in prenatal tests. This was based on a recent article in The New York Times and specifically demanded oversight of such testing to “protect vulnerable populations like persons with disabilities, pregnant mothers, and their unborn children.”

You might wonder why no Democrats signed on to such a seeming expression of heartfelt concern for “persons with disabilities, pregnant mothers, and their unborn children.” As proudly touted on Fischbach’s website, the letter was approved by a litany of forced birth organizations, including “Students for Life Action, Family Research Council, Susan B. Anthony List, National Right to Life Action, March for Life Action, Heritage Action, Family Policy Alliance, and the Ethics and [the] Religious Liberty Commission.” But both the letter and The New York Times article it is based on are premised on a misconception: The tests referenced in The Times article were screening tests, not diagnostic tests (which could trigger potential medical intervention). At best, a screening test indicates there “might” be a problem, and because the tests are calibrated to screen out extremely rare diseases, a high number of false positives is to be expected. In fact, that is the way screening tests for such diseases and conditions are designed.

But you wouldn’t know that from the Republicans’ letter, because that wasn’t the letter’s purpose. The letter, as evidenced by the forced-birther groups that signed onto it, was simply an opening salvo in what is very likely to become the latest assault on reproductive autonomy: the selective regulation and attempted prohibition of such prenatal testing in states that have otherwise outlawed abortion. Its purpose is to keep women and other pregnant patients ignorant and unaware of potential genetic problems with their fetuses that under normal circumstances would almost certainly result in the termination of the pregnancy.

RELATED STORY: Republicans dug their own grave on IVF. Now they’re trying to lie their way out

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