Published On: Mon, Feb 13th, 2017

Advances in ultrasound technology brings politics, abortion debates and eugenic concerns

Advances in ultrasound technology and new research partnered with first-trimester ultrasound screening have raised new question about the detection of fetal abnormalities as well as just life itself.

A new study, published online January 31, 2017 in Circulation, confirmed that more severe congenital heart defects and higher comorbidities are present in the first trimester. Their finding also found that it results in an increase in early pregnancy abortions.

“If first-trimester screenings continue in some countries, we can expect to find more cardiac abnormalities,” but “on the other hand, most parents will terminate [these pregnancies], so we have to be careful,” lead investigator Dr Hana Jičínská (University Hospital and Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic) told heartwire from Medscape.

One of the first measures that Republicans in the 115th Congress proposed was the “Heartbeat Protection Act,” led by Iowa’s Steve King, which would require doctors nationwide to “check for a fetal heartbeat” before performing an abortion, and prohibit them from completing the procedure if they found one.

photo/ Rudy and Peter Skitterians via Pixabay

Opponents of the heartbeat bills have pointed out that they would eliminate abortion rights almost entirely—making the procedure illegal around four weeks after fertilization, before many women realize that they are pregnant or if their child has medical issues, like the severe congenital heart defects mentioned above.

Some doctors are still battling over terms, refusing to call the “cell mass” a “fetus” until week nine of pregnancy. Twenty other states require a doctor to at least offer to show a woman seeking an abortion ultrasound and courts have struck down the requirement in some cases.

Dr Stephen Daniels (Children’s Hospital Colorado, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora), who was not involved with the study, said, “We probably do need to get better and better at being able to detect abnormalities earlier for a variety of reasons, one of which is that fetal interventions are becoming more common, and so it begins to raise the question if you know about the early development of a defect there are things that you can do.”

“Being able to look at this noninvasively in utero is a big plus,” he added. “While it seems ultrasound can do everything, even in later gestation fetal ultrasound is a challenging thing to accomplish.”

While 3D and 4D ultrasounds are not widely available, they are common in major cities. 3D and 4D ultrasounds are elective procedures, insurance does not cover the cost, and can start around $100. The medscape article notes that other countries are approving the screening in their health care coverage, so expect that to roll out here in the U.S.

The researchers express fear that parents’ will make a quick, knee jerk reaction to any finding and abort more babies, even though treatment is very effective in most cases and the quality of life is not that limiting. Critics would be quick to point to eugenics and the frightening programs which could press parents against allowing births with ANY abnormalities.

photo: 14 week fetus photo/ Your Pregnancy week by week


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About the Author

- Roxanne "Butter" Bracco began with the Dispatch as Pittsburgh Correspondent, but will be providing reports and insights from Washington DC, Maryland and the surrounding region. Contact Roxie aka "Butter" at theglobaldispatch@gmail ATTN: Roxie or Butter Bracco

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