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Quiz: What Would You Do?

The Scenario

A husband and his pregnant wife seek genetic counseling. Each carries one flawed copy of the gene responsible for achondroplasia; thus both are dwarfs. Recently, a California research team described the mutation in a gene on chromosome 4 that causes achondroplasia.

The counselor explains that genetic testing can determine whether the fetus has inherited the achondroplasia mutation. In the discussion, the couple inform the counselor that they will abort any fetus that carries two mutant genes. That's not surprising, since children born with two such genes rarely survive beyond infancy. Indeed, the couple had had such a child.

This time around, they say, they want a baby who is heterozygous for the achondroplasia trait. Such a child inherits a flawed gene from one parent and a healthy gene from the other parent. That genetic combination means the child will be a dwarf — just like the parents.

At the same time, the parents say, they will abort any fetus that does not inherit one copy of the mutant gene.

The Scenario (bottom)

The Question Tab (top)

The Question:

Should the counseling center perform the test, knowing that the couple plan to abort a healthy fetus?

Select Your Answer: YES NO

Some things to consider include:

  • The fact that achondroplasia is a fairly serious disorder. The bones can be abnormal in structure, sometimes requiring the use of a wheelchair.
  • Yet many dwarfs live long, healthy lives and don't regard their condition as a disability. In addition, some couples with achondroplasia worry about the problems involved in raising a normal-size child.
  • Under Roe v. Wade, women in the United States have the right to obtain an abortion during early pregnancy for a variety of personal reasons.

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