What Does Roe V. Wade Overturn Mean For Fetal Genetic Testing During Pregnancy?

Since the Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe v. Wade, many questions and concerns about fertility, pregnancy, and birth have come up. According to Healthline, it has become common in recent years to test for genetic defects in a developing fetus while a person is pregnant. This can alert the parents of any potential health risks to the child and help the doctor know if the fetus will be viable after birth. If a significant genetic defect that would likely result in the death of the infant shortly after birth was found, an abortion could be recommended.

However, many states are now choosing to restrict or outlaw genetic testing now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned. "Since genetic testing is predominantly for information gathering, a change in access to termination will not necessarily change the demand for testing," said Dr. Anjali Kaimal, the chair of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Committee on Clinical Practice Guidelines – Obstetrics and chief of the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. "It will change the options and resources available to patients who desire pregnancy termination for any reason, including abnormal test results." About three percent of babies born in the U.S. have birth defects, and about 20 percent of those babies die as infants as a result of the defects.

Genetic testing is an important part of prenatal care

According to Lauren Doyle, a certified genetic counselor and the director of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro's Genetic Counseling program, genetic testing is not performed as a reason for the termination of a pregnancy (via Healthline). "It is a tool for expanding information, for helping families to prepare for a birth experience or child that may not be what they originally envisioned," Doyle said.

Genetic testing can also help doctors make better decisions for prenatal care, infant care, and the birthing experience (via Johns Hopkins Medicine). It can also help doctors know if a woman is at a higher risk of miscarriage or stillbirth, which can guide their prenatal and postnatal care plans. Finally, genetic testing can help parents prepare for their birth experience and new child if it does not have life-threatening genetic issues. This can make the birth experience and first few months of a mother's life after having a baby much easier to handle mentally and physically when she knows what to expect.