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Prenatal screening and prenatal diagnosis: contemporary practices in light of the past
  1. Ana S Iltis
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ana S Iltis, Department of Philosophy and Center for Bioethics, Health and Society, Wake Forest University, 1834 Wake Forest Rd, Winston-Salem, NC 27106, USA; iltisas{at}


The 20th century eugenics movement in the USA and contemporary practices involving prenatal screening (PNS), prenatal diagnosis (PND), abortion and preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) share important morally relevant similarities. I summarise some features of the 20th century eugenics movement; describe the contemporary standard of care in the USA regarding PNS, PND, abortion and PGD; and demonstrate that the ‘old eugenics’ the contemporary standard of care share the underlying view that social resources should be invested to prevent the birth of people with certain characteristics. This comparison makes evident the difficulty of crafting moral arguments that treat some uses of PNS, PND, abortion and PGD as licit and others as illicit.

  • Ethics

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