Equipping the church to preserve the dignity of human life

By May 30, 2008

USA (MNN) — Imagine that your doctor offers to test your unborn baby for Down Syndrome.  Your only options, if the baby has Down Syndrome, are to abort the baby or to carry it to term.  Would you take the test?  

Imagine that you and your spouse each carry a gene for early onset Alzheimer’s, and one out of every four of your children will be affected.  You learn that you could use the process of in vitro fertilization to choose an embryo free from the disease before implanting it in the womb.  What would you do?  

Even if you never have to face these challenges, health care reform is a hot topic this election year. Many elections around the world affect the health care provided for people with disabilities.  

The Christian Institute on Disability, a division of Joni and Friends, is endeavoring to impact society and the church with a biblical perspective on issues just like these. It aims “to present these issues in such a way that they are clear, reasonable, theologically, and biblically sound, which is a perspective you often don’t hear in media,” said Dr. Kathy McReynolds, Director of Public Policy for the Institute.  

“One of the important goals here at the Center is to bring together theologians, ethicists, educators, physicians, even attorneys, in order to discuss disability related issues and even broader ethical issues in medicine,” she added. All this takes place within the  broader mission of Joni and Friends, which is to communicate the Gospel and equip Christ-honoring churches worldwide to evangelize and disciple people affected by disabilities.

Presently, McReynolds is writing seven papers, including some on prenatal testing and preimplantation genetic diagnosis, which allow parents to screen their babies for disabilities.    

Some prenatal tests screen for incurable diseases like Down syndrome, Tay-Sachs disease, sickle-cell anemia, and Turner’s syndrome. According to Karl John Shields, M.A., writing for the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, a mother usually has only two options if her baby has one of these diseases – she can abort the baby or carry it to term. Hospitals and insurance companies often pressure the mother to abort.  

Preimplantation genetic diagnosis involves a similar problem, explained Dr. Dave Stevens. In this procedure, embryos are tested for genetically-linked diseases, propensities for diseases, or even gender. The parents choose an embryo with the desired gender or without the undesirable disease before it is implanted in the uterus. The remaining embryos are usually discarded. 

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