Genetic testing debates in Germany

Multiple viewpoints are presented in the German parliament in a debate about the ethics of genetic testing on the unborn.

Genetic testing debates in Germany

Berlin (dpa) – Germany's parliament on Thursday held a debate on the ethics of genetic testing of unborn children and whether state-backed insurance providers should fund the practice.

At the centre of the two-hour debate in the Bundestag was whether to support new blood tests for high-risk pregnancies that could indicate whether a child has Down syndrome.

Lawmakers on both sides of the ideological spectrum were divided over whether insurance providers should fund the tests.

Karl Lauterbach, health expert for the centre-left Social Democrats, said the new blood tests were more secure and essentially an upgrade to existing medical tests already funded by the state.

The left-leaning Greens were more sceptical. Corinna Rueffer, the party's expert in medical disabilities, warned that the tests were less about healing, since Down syndrome is not an illness, and more about "selection." In many cases where Down syndrome is identified in unborn children, the parents opt for an abortion, she noted.

The far-right Alternative for Germany signalled it was more aligned with the Greens. AfD lawmaker Beatrix von Storch said she opposed any measures that signal people with Down syndrome are not desired.

Hundreds of people demonstrated in Berlin on Wednesday against the practice, while a petition entitled "People with Down syndrome should not be weeded out" has gathered more than 14,000 signatures.

No decisions were to be made on Thursday as a state-backed health body has yet to give its own recommendation on whether insurers should back the tests.