First the Affair, Then Paternity Test, Then Abortion?

Is the availability of prenatal paternity tests leading women to abort fetuses?

ByABC News
January 27, 2009, 12:41 PM

LONDON, Jan. 27, 2009 — -- The illegal use of DNA testing to determine the sex of fetuses in the developing world is widely known, but now, concern is growing in the United Kingdom that the availability of prenatal paternity tests is encouraging women to terminate fetuses that are the result of extramarital affairs.

According to Dan Leigh, the marketing director with DNA Solutions, a global DNA test firm with offices in 40 countries, the number of women opting for the prenatal paternity test shot up from 20 in 2002 to 500 last year.

"The testing technology has improved vastly," Leigh told ABC News. "It's become much more accessible."

"It's fairly common to see women take this test after their husbands have found out about an affair and want to know if they have fathered the child their wife is carrying," Leigh said.

"But 75 percent of the cases involve women coming in of their own volition; they want to know whose child they are carrying," he said.

As for the concerns over women terminating their pregnancies as a result of the tests, Leigh demurred, saying that "there are no statistics to support that, but it [abortion] happens when the husband turns out not to be the biological father."

"It's a sad situation," he said. "It often ends either in divorce or the husband insists on terminating the pregnancy."

The company encourages women who apply to take the prenatal paternity test to also see a therapist. But, although 90 percent of the company's U.S. customers consult with a therapist, only 20 percent of its U.K. clients do, because "the idea of seeing a counselor is just not popular in this country," Leigh said.

And, despite criticism from anti-abortion rights organizations, Leigh insisted that DNA Solutions does "not encourage abortion or termination of pregnancies."

"We are offering the chance to clarify the truth," he said.

"Frankly," he said, "the risk to a baby from an amniocentesis is a much bigger concern for us, and we are working on being able to conduct the test using a blood sample from the mother's arm instead, find a noninvasive way of doing it."