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Prenatal diagnosis and selective abortion: a result of the cultural turn?
  1. D I Bromage
  1. Correspondence to:
 Mr D I Bromage
 Centre for Ethics in Medicine, 73 St Michael’s Hill, Bristol, BS2 8BH, UK; danbromage{at}


There is a growing trend in obstetric medicine of prenatal diagnosis and the selective abortion of foetuses that are likely to be born with a disability. Reasons commonly given to explain this trend include the financial implications of screening and testing policies, the disruption to families caused by the birth of a child with a disability, and the potential quality of life of the unborn child. This paper reflects upon another possible reason for this. It is argued that it is, in part, a consequence of our attitudes towards disability and a pursuit of aesthetic perfection. These attitudes arise from a social context that may be explained by considering the effect on the disabled community of the transition from modernity to postmodernity. This shift is demonstrated by inspecting some of the synonymous developments in art history. It is suggested that this “cultural turn” may have both helped and hindered people with disabilities, but the hypothesis requires further testing. This could be best achieved with a qualitative study of what motivates parental decision making in the obstetric unit.

  • postmodern
  • selective abortion
  • prenatal diagnosis
  • culture

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