Noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT), a new technology that uses cell-free fetal DNA in maternal plasma to detect fetal aneuploidies, is currently entering clinical practice. NIPT offers great clinical benefits as it is much more accurate than current screening, allows earlier testing, and eliminates the risk of miscarriage associated with amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling (CVS). In the future, it may become accurate enough to replace invasive testing. To date, no attention has been given in the literature to the role that earlier testing through NIPT might play in the context of religious traditions with particular attitudes toward abortion, such as in Muslim communities. This article presents some Islamic views regarding fetal development and abortion as well as some recent legislative developments surrounding abortion for fetal conditions, focusing on Iran and Saudi Arabia. It then offers a discussion of possible implications of NIPT for Muslim communities, such as its potential to allow access to diagnostic information before “ensoulment,” the point of fetal development at which the fetus is bestowed the moral status of a human being. The possible impact of early access to information on the evolution of legislation surrounding abortion for fetal conditions is also discussed. Finally, we suggest future research directions based on empirical studies with women, partners, health professionals, and religious authorities in Muslim countries and in countries with a Muslim majority in order to explore their preferences and attitudes regarding the future implementation of NIPT within those communities.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding for this study comes from a Genome Canada grant awarded for the project entitled “PEGASUS: PErsonalized Genomics for prenatal Aneuploidy Screening USing maternal blood.”
The authors thank Dr. Ori Goldberg for his insightful comments. The authors also thank Genome Canada, Genome Quebec, and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research for their generous support of PEGASUS, the project under which this study was conducted.
© 2015,Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
- Down syndrome
- fetal development
- noninvasive prenatal testing
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health(social science)
- Health Policy