An interesting debate has been going on out of the media limelight. Sarah Palin's decision earlier this year to have an amniocentesis to determine if her unborn child had Down Syndrome is not uncontroversial among pro-lifers. I'd be curious to find out from women readers, especially pro-life women readers, what their views of amniocentesis are, and how common it is for totally principled pro-life pregnant women to consent to having them. The reason for the debate is two-fold: a) if you are not considering an abortion, there isn't much point in having an amniocentesis; and b) much more important for a pro-lifer, an amniocentesis poses a small but real risk to the life of an unborn child. According to the Christian News Service:
Technological advances now allow women alternative pre-natal screenings to determine the risks of their child having Down syndrome, including blood tests and ultrasound.
But more reliable results require chromosome diagnostic testing such as amniocentesis, which collects amniotic fluid in the womb by inserting a needle through the woman’s abdominal wall into the uterus.
The procedure increases the normal rate of miscarriage, which is 2 percent to 3 percent, by ½ to 1 percent, according to Dr. Len Leshin, a pediatrician in Texas who has a son with Down syndrome and has written extensively on the subject.
So why would a pro-life woman choose the procedure that could lead to the death of her unborn child rather than the safe, less invasive procedure? I don't know. It's one of many mystifying weirdnesses in Palin;s own account of her pregnancy. Why do you need to know for sure that your baby has DS when it could mean a small risk of killing the child that you're determined to keep alive? Here's the Wikipedia entry on the procedure:
Although the procedure is routine, possible complications include infection of the amniotic sac from the needle, and failure of the puncture to heal properly, which can result in leakage or infection. Serious complications can result in miscarriage. Other possible complications include preterm labor and delivery, respiratory distress, postural deformities, fetal trauma and alloimmunisation (rhesus disease). The risk of amniocentesis-related miscarriage is generally thought to be 1 in 200, although a recent study has indicated this may actually be much lower, perhaps 1 in 1,600.
Almost all pregnant women are offered an amniocentesis. So I have two questions maybe you can help answer or move forward:
- Under what circumstances would a pregnant pro-life activist - as pro-life as it is possible to be - agree to have an amniocentesis?
- Is it logically possible to be against abortion even in cases of rape and incest and yet marginally risk the life of your own unborn child with an amniocentesis?
- Are there health issues that endanger the life of an older mother in having a baby with DS? I have been able to find none in my Internet searches, so maybe my readers can help.