Cystic Fibrosis Babies Aborted?
In 2001, the National Institutes of Health and other groups recommended that ob-gyns and family practitioners screen pregnant women and their mates for genes that cause cystic fibrosis. In what appears to be the first evidence that decision has made an impact, a state registry in Massachusetts reported today that the births of babies with cystic fibrosis were declining in their state. The report in the New England Journal of Medicine compared the numbers of babies born with cystic fibrosis in the 1999-2002 period with those in the years 2003-2006. The number born with the disease dropped by about 50 percent. The decline was even stronger in the population of babies who had the genes that are tested for in the most common cystic fibrosis genetic test. About 10 were born each year in Massachusetts in the first period; about 5 per year in the second. Since most couples get testing after the woman is pregnant, these results indicate that many people are choosing to abort fetuses that might be born with the disease. Cystic fibrosis is a systemic disease that causes lung, liver and other problems. It was fatal in childhood in the past, but better treatments now allow many patients to live into middle-age.