Noninvasive Prenatal Testing: Views of Canadian Pregnant Women and Their Partners Regarding Pressure and Societal Concerns

AJOB Empirical Bioethics 12 (1):53-62 (2021)
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Abstract

Background Noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT) provides important benefits yet raises ethical concerns. We surveyed Canadian pregnant women and their partners to explore their views regarding pressure to test and terminate a pregnancy, as well as other societal impacts that may result from the routinization of NIPT.Methods A questionnaire was offered (March 2015 to July 2016) to pregnant women and their partners at five healthcare facilities in four Canadian provinces.Results 882 pregnant women and 395 partners completed the survey. 64% of women anticipated feeling no pressure to take the test if it were offered routinely, and 39% were not concerned about routinization leading to increased pressure to terminate a pregnancy of a fetus with Down Syndrome. Regarding other social concerns possibly resulting from routinization, pregnant women were most concerned regarding a reduction in resources available for people with Down Syndrome and their families and least concerned regarding a decrease in the population of people with Down Syndrome.Conclusions Our findings reflect the concerns expressed by pregnant women and their partners, both personal (pressure to test, pressure to terminate) and societal (e.g., regarding potential negative impact on people with disabilities and their families). Even if most women were not concerned about feeling pressured to test due to NIPT routinization, a large minority express concerns that should not be taken lightly. Moreover, a majority of respondents were concerned regarding pressure to terminate pregnancies due to NIPT routinization as well as regarding most societal impacts they were queried on, especially the possible future reduction in resources available for people with DS and their families. Canadian policy-makers should consider these potential negative ramifications of NIPT and ensure that appropriate social policies accompany its implementation.

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