So you’re pregnant, congratulations! One of the first tests you’ll be offered is the 12 week scan (also known as the Nuchal Fold Scan). It’s lovely to see your baby for the first time. Amazing. And certainly, if you aren’t sure of your dates, this is a good time to confirm your expected delivery date (EDD). Women who have a history of miscarriage may also find this scan reassuring, but beware! One of the main purposes of the 12 week scan is to detect babies who are at “high risk” of chromosomal abnormalities. Then parents can have the choice to proceed with a more risky test, to examine baby’s chromosomes accurately, so that little ones with less than the perfect complement can be identified and aborted. Our modern secular culture has become intolerant of anything less than perfection. But what does the Catholic Church say about this?
- “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person — among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n 2270).
- “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law….” (CCC, n 2271).
It is very clear that every human life is a gift from God and is to be cherished and protected.
One of the commonest chromosome problems that might be picked up antenatally is Down’s syndrome or Trisomy 21 (literally three copies of chromosome number 21, instead of two). As someone who grew up with a Down’s syndrome sister I am horrified that, in this generation, she might not ever have been born because her parents may have decided she was not worthy of life. It’s estimated today that nine out of ten Downs babies are aborted after antenatal testing.
As a mother and a doctor, I am acutely aware that any one of my six lovely children could become disabled by illness or injury at any time. Whether they were still deserving of my wholehearted love, care and protection would be unquestionable. The antenatal campaign against Down’s Syndrome and the other less common trisomies, 18 (Edwards Syndrome) and 12 (Patau’s Syndrome), has been called genocide and likened to the slaughter of the Jews in World War II.
American Presidential hopeful, Rick Santorum, has a three and a half year old daughter, Bella, with Edward’s Syndrome. He speaks very movingly of how she is the centre of their family, a centre of light and love. "Bella makes us better," he says. "We're the disabled ones, not her. She has a beautiful spirit that emits unconditional love."
So, my advice, for what it’s worth.... Think twice about why you are being offered a 12 week scan. Take one, if you want. But do it for the right reasons. And let’s all thank God for the gift of life, intrinsically precious, in all its forms.