Down’s Syndrome and Abortion

Down Syndrome Karyotype. from en: with same fi...

Down Syndrome Karyotype. from en: with same file name (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last week, researchers at the University of Massachusetts successfully corrected the chromosomal cause of Down’s syndrome in a group of isolated cells.  From the Guardian UK:

“This will accelerate our understanding of the cellular defects in Down’s syndrome and whether they can be treated with certain drugs,” said Jeanne Lawrence, who led the team at the University of Massachusetts.

“The long-range possibility – and it’s an uncertain possibility – is a chromosome therapy for Down’s syndrome. But that is 10 years or more away. I don’t want to get people’s hopes up.”

. . . .

Lawrence’s team used “genome editing”, a procedure that allows DNA to be cut and pasted, to drop a gene called XIST into the extra chromosome in cells taken from people with Down’s syndrome.

Once in place, the gene caused a buildup of a version of a molecule called RNA, which coated the extra chromosome and ultimately shut it down.

What’s the connection to abortion?  The literature on abortion following a prenatal diagnosis of Down’s syndrome indicates that a vast majority–67% – 93%–of children identified as having Down’s syndrome in utero are aborted.  One study found similar numbers even in the context of a country in which abortion is illegal.

Even as we advocate for preservation of a child diagnosed with Down’s syndrome, we should support medical advances that work toward a correction for Down’s syndrome.  Any advances will be encouraging to parents faced with the prospect of caring for a Down’s syndrome child.


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