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Jan 27 2014
A Christian response to advancing ultrasound technology.

Again, ultrasound technology initially allowed doctors to safely assess the health of a growing fetus and to detect anatomical concerns. For instance, ultrasounds detected Down syndrome 85-90 percent of the time, which came as a relief to women who wanted to know if their baby had this condition but who also wanted to avoid the risk of miscarriage that comes with amniocentesis testing.

Pro-choice women used the technology to identify health conditions that might prompt them to consider abortion. At the same time, pro-life forces employed ultrasound images to convince pregnant women seeking an abortion to keep their babies. But their approach, it seems, hasn't been universally successful. A recent study of nearly 16,000 women seeking abortions in Los Angeles demonstrated that over 98 percent of women who viewed their fetus through ultrasound technology still opted for abortion. Meanwhile, the rise of ultrasound technology throughout the developing world has led to an unintended increase in sex-selective abortion resulting in dramatically skewed gender balances in China, India, and other nations.

In the 21st century, ultrasounds still offer helpful information for doctors. They can lead to or away from abortion. More than ever, this technology marks a significant part of pregnancy and has social effects on how we imagine our babies. The highly detailed 3D and now HD ultrasounds give parents the riveting experience of seeing the life that will one day enter the world and join the family. For parents preparing for the birth of a child, including those who are preparing for a child with atypical anatomy (such as a cleft lip or club foot) or atypical chromosomes (such as Down syndrome), these images might help secure an emotional bond before birth.

Ultrasound technology can be fun and exciting, but for Christians, our excitement and readiness shouldn't come from an image on a screen. Rather, as I learned the hard way, it should come from a readiness in the heart to welcome whatever child God has given us. Our daughter Penny was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth, and at first I felt anger at the ultrasound technicians who had seen her along the way. But later I realized they had done their job—Penny had no anatomical concerns that needed medical intervention. She was a healthy baby, just as the images had suggested. But I had allowed those images to suggest that our baby was under our control, created in our own image. I wish that instead I had understood our daughter as a gift coming from God for us to receive with gratitude and wonder.

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