Prenatal Screening Policy in International Perspective: Lessons from Israel, Cyprus, Taiwan, China, and Singapore


Dov FoxFollow

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In Heredity and Hope, historian Ruth Schwartz Cowan defends modem genetic testing – the new genetics, by distinguishing it from twentieth century eugenics – the old genetics. Cowan maintains that although we rightly recoil from the old genetics, with its coercive methods and hateful motives, we should embrace the new genetics to enhance reproductive choice and promote the well-being of our offspring. This Book Review argues that the analogy between the old and new genetics can be less readily cast aside than Cowan appreciates. I argue that Cowan overlooks a moral similarity between the old genetics and new genetics: namely, whatever the differences between the means by which each is carried out, both are biological approaches to solve what are in large part social ills. I examine two ways in which the new genetics, no less than the old, might undermine social equality for people with disabilities. First, the new genetics threatens to express demeaning judgments about the lives of persons with disabilities. Second, a tendency to treat disabilities as predominantly genetic problems worthy of reproductive prevention could weaken our collective willingness to welcome into the world those whose abilities fail to meet the demands of modern society. My argument draws on comparisons among prenatal screening policy in the United States to contemporary policies from across Asia, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean.

Publication Info

9 YALE J. HEALTH POL’Y L. & ETHICS 471 (2009)