Should prenatal screening be seen as 'selective reproduction'? Four reasons to reframe the ethical debate

Christoph Rehmann-Sutter*

*Corresponding author for this work
4 Citations (Scopus)


There are a number of problems with the classification of prenatal screening as a form of 'selective reproduction' that has become an increasingly dominant classification scheme in the last decade. (1) Since the term 'selection' implies choosing one out of several (at least two), it misdescribes the decision to terminate a pregnancy. (2) Deciding whether to have this child is a decision taken within the relationships that constitute the pregnancy. (3) 'Selection' is a loaded term, connecting prenatal diagnosis to negative eugenics or to population genetics. (4) Deciding against the birth of a child who would suffer or would not be able to flourish is a decision taken within a negotiation of personal responsibilities and social constraints. The characterization of prenatal screening as selective reproduction is, in a very narrow way, defensible to reconstruct why prenatal screening is permissible in a liberal state and should not be banned, but it needs to be rejected as a general frame for understanding the substance of the ethical issues around prenatal diagnosis and screening. Ethics should rather attempt to create a respectful space of mutual understandings and reflect how women and couples, who are ultimately responsible for these decisions, perceive their responsibilities in care.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Perinatal Medicine
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)953-958
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 01.10.2021

Research Areas and Centers

  • Research Area: Center for Cultural Studies (ZKFL)


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