7 - Where Is the Sin in Synecdoche? Prenatal Testing and the Parent-Child Relationship  pp. 172-216

Where Is the Sin in Synecdoche? Prenatal Testing and the Parent-Child Relationship

By Adrienne Asch and David Wasserman

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The principal targets of what has become known as the disability critique of prenatal testing (PNT) have been health professionals and the policies they establish, not individual parents and the decisions they make. Indeed, one of the strongest complaints about professional practices and policies is that they infringe upon rather than enhance the reproductive freedom of individual parents, by pressuring them to abort fetuses that are likely to develop substantial impairments (e.g., Clarke, 1991; Wachbroit and Wasserman, 1995; Shakespeare, Chapter 8, this volume). Moreover, the “expressivist” objection to prenatal testing – that it reflects or embodies a conviction that children with impairments are a burden to themselves, their parents, and society – is more appropriately directed to the practices and policies adopted by professional groups than to the often confused and ambivalent decisions made by individuals in the face of those practices and policies.

Nevertheless, we believe that it is critical to examine the attitudes and beliefs with which individuals respond to the testing technology that is offered to them, however coercively. To some extent, that technology is made available in the belief that it serves the preferences and values of those who employ it. If the routinization of prenatal testing is in part an attempt to introduce eugenic policies through the “back door” (Duster, 1990), it is also in part a response to perceived consumer demand.