My son is not a genetic 'fault' -- the downside of prenatal genetic testing

The "Gattaca" test is almost here. When I say "Gattaca" I'm referring to the 1997 movie starring Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman. In the film, according to IMDB, "A genetically inferior man assumes the identity of a superior one in order to pursue his lifelong dream of space travel."

Of course, I am not concerned with space travel but I am concerned with genetics and genetic testing. Here's why: News outlets reported this week that researchers have successfully genetically mapped a 18-week unborn child by taking a blood sample from the mother and a saliva sample by the father. Scientists are predicting that soon widespread use of prenatal genetic testing will make such tests a routine procedure in doctor's offices, resulting in the identification of 3,500 potential genetic "faults" in an unborn child.

I have a child who has a genetic “fault” – as these scientists would classify it, and he is the light of my life. Gunner is a happy and rambunctious three-year-old with cystic fibrosis. Through all of his doctor appointments and tests, he is patient and kind and loving and is an incredible example to myself and anyone who gets to know him.

Mapping the entire genetic code of their unborn child will allow parents not only know the sex, eye color, hair color of their baby but also their child's likelihood to develop certain cancers and diseases and whether or not the child possesses genetic disabilities.

While the hopes of those advocating prenatal testing see this as a bright spot for mankind's future, those of us whose lives have been touched by someone with one of these genetic "faults" see it as another form of discrimination and extermination.

If abortion clinics will kill an unborn baby simply because it’s a girl, as Live Action has so pointedly uncovered in recent weeks, what will stop them from making money off of aborting children with genetic faults?

Already today in our society, OB/GYNs fearful of "wrongful birth" lawsuits push at each visit for a pregnant mother to obtain all of the prenatal tests currently available – for trisomy’s (Down syndrome, trisomy 18, trisomy 13) and cystic fibrosis. Then, if a test is positive, abortion is advised as the only option – in medical schools, students are being taught that abortion is the ethical option in these cases.


Look no farther than the statistics -- 90% of unborn children who test positive for Down syndrome or cystic fibrosis are aborted.

With this new genetic test giving parents and society the ability to map the genetic code of their unborn baby, it is no doubt that abortions will rise. Scared mothers and fathers will be told that aborting their baby is the compassionate choice and that you can always try again if you didn't want a girl with red hair, freckles, and a higher than normal chance of developing breast cancer. The justifications for these genetically-discriminatory abortions will be limitless.

And then will come our "Gattaca"-style society where people will be judged not by the makeup of their character, but by the composition of their genetic code, one that was mapped prior to birth.

And what will our world lose, what will mankind lose? Millions of unique individuals all of whom could have contributed to our society but were never given the chance.

Think of every person lost to cancer or who suffers from an incurable genetic disease – would it have been better off had they not been born at all?

My son, Gunner has already changed the world – he's touched the lives of those who have met him and made me a better human being.

His genetic "fault" makes him a better person than I will ever be because of the sacrifice and responsibility that will be required of him every day to defeat his disease and continue to move forward with his normal life. His cystic fibrosis will never trump his character -- the core of who he is -- his love, compassion, intellect, creativity, and joy.

Kristan Hawkins is the executive director of Students for Life of America.