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Autism Abortion Test Now Available: Should Taxpayer Dollars Be Used To Develop Such Tests?

Posted Jun 01 2011 12:00am

Should selective abortion of children be considered part of an autism prevention strategy?

By Kevin Barry

Advances in medical science and technology sometimes come with a heavy moral price. Traditional pre-natal genetic tests have involved invasive analysis of the mother's amniotic fluid.  Now, less invasive blood tests are available.  ( See Science Daily HERE ).  A new simple blood test is now on the market which can be used for genetic counseling about potential risks for developing autism.  Information presented to expecting parents could easily lead to selective abortion of supposedly "at-risk" fetuses. 

Universal Family Church is a multi-faith church which highly respects the individual's right to make health choices.  Most of our members do not support selective abortion of children.  As a society, we have legalized abortion, but drawn a line banning the use of taxpayer money to perform this procedure.  Universal Family Church believes that society should go a step further and ban the use of taxpayer money for new genetic research which could lead to selective abortions.  We believe that selective abortions - of babies otherwise wanted and hoped for - are especially tragic.  

Presently, a very high percentage of fetuses which test positive prenatally for Down's Syndrome are aborted. ( See Nature HERE )  Is Government-funded research leading to a similar future for infants who may simply have a very slightly increased risk of developing autism?

Should selective abortion of children be considered part of an autism prevention strategy? 

Lineagen, a biotech company based in Utah, is now marketing a blood test which identifies "new genetic variants associated with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders)" . ( See Lineagen HERE )  At this time, Lineagen positions its product as a post natal early intervention tool - not as a prenatal test.  However, with autism rates conservatively affecting one in every 70 boys born today, expecting couples are rightfully concerned about autism.  FirstStepDX is an easy, single draw blood test that could be added to routine prenatal OB/GYN appointments.  

Lineagen's website explains this simple process of their FirstStepDx blood test:

What does the testing process include?

Lineagen’s FirstStepDx combines two state-of-the-art genetic tests: whole genome chromosome microarray analysis (CMA) and fragile X testing. 

Two blood samples are taken from the person undergoing testing and are obtained during a single blood draw.  From these samples DNA is extracted, which is then used for genetic testing.

The FirstStepDx test comprises a comprehensive service that includes pre- and post-test genetic counseling and a detailed report delivered in an easy-to-read format, suitable for both physicians and families. Lineagen Our Services HERE

The Lineagen site also describes the test's use of new genetic variants:   

Over the past several years, powerful research possibilities have emerged, particularly related to the identification of new genetic variants associated with ASD, MS, and COPD. Furthermore, Lineagen has in-licensed best-in-class genetic research data from notable establishments, including the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to form the most extensive proprietary data set on ASD in the world.   About Lineagen HERE
Autism is expensive to society, costing billions of dollars per year.   From a cost perspective, it's easy to understand why some government agencies, and some private autism non-profit groups, have searched for autism gene(s) for so long.  With the human genome now mapped, it is apparent that no single gene causes even a modest proportion of ASD cases. 

The public and private sector search for the autism gene - so society could attempt to abort away autism in the future as it aborts away Down's Syndrome in the present - has failed.

Years of research has determined that autism is a multigene, multifactorial disorder.  The temptation to screen for autism risk will be unavoidable, whereas the opportunity to treat infants postnatally based on their genetics will likely yield little benefit. The Human Genome Project website states that "multigene or multifactorial disorders ... would be especially difficult to treat effectively using gene therapy."    

Multigene disorders - Conditions or disorders that arise from mutations in a single gene are the best candidates for gene therapy. Unfortunately, some the most commonly occurring disorders, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, and diabetes, are caused by the combined effects of variations in many genes. Multigene or multifactorial disorders such as these would be especially difficult to treat effectively using gene therapy.   See HERE  


Should new research projects seeking taxpayer money certify that their output will not be used for prenatal genetic testing?  There is a place for new genetic research for autism for potential drug discovery, provided the new research has specific gene targets.  If researchers want to develop genetic counseling tools for prenatal use, they can turn to private entities, like Lineagen or private autism non-profit organizations, for funding. 

The NIH Office of Autism Research Coordination proudly displays its work on "genetic risk factors."  Some autism non-profit groups, in support of the 2011 Combating Autism Re-authorization Act, put the identification of "several autism susceptibility genes" on the short list of the top reasons to continue supporting millions of dollars of government funded autism research each year. 

Blood tests are now available to test for genetic variants associated with autism.  Universal Family Church believes it is outrageous that the fruit of past government research have been used to create tools that could be used today for selective abortions - abortions potentially performed based on only a slight probability that a child might develop a disability or disorder. 

Society must find ways to ensure that future federal spending for genetic research is not used to expand the abortion tool kit.

Kevin Barry
Founder, Universal Family Church

Universal Family Church is a multi-faith Church founded in 2010.  Our four central tenets are based on what we believe God intends regarding the principles of Health, Equality, Love and Peace.




Posted by Age of Autism at June 17, 2011 at 5:45 AM in Current Affairs , Science Permalink

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