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Posted at 05:56 PM ET, 02/19/2012

Santorum’s take on amnios doesn’t add up

Apparently, I don’t scare as easily as some, because Rick Santorum doesn’t make me want to run screaming from civil
“That is a fact,” Rick Santorum? Or is it just a feeling? (Eric Gay - Associated Press)
discourse or anything.

(The Post’s conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin, on the other hand, seems more beside herself by the day, though little that he’s saying is all-new territory for anyone who’s ever listened to Fox News, El Rushbo or my family in Evansville.)

Still, cute as that story about the dog that peed on Santo is, I do question his argument against some forms of prenatal testing.

What he’s charging is that the true goal of prenatal testing is to cut costs by minimizing the chance that people who would be a drain on the health-care system are ever born: “Free prenatal testing,” he said, “ends up in more abortions and therefore less care that has to be done because we cull the ranks of the disabled in our society.” Which would be diabolical, if true, and explains a lot about why Santorum speaks so cataclysmically on the stump.

He’s all for sonograms, of course, because he thinks they prevent abortions. But he does not approve of amniocentesis, or think it should be government-funded, because that’s a procedure that can have the opposite effect.

“Amniocentesis does, in fact, result more often than not in this country in abortions,” Santorum said. “That is a fact.”

I strongly doubt that. Although I find no direct stats on how many of the amnios done here result in terminations, for what he said to be true, a majority of amnios would have to show serious abnormalities, and 100 percent of expectant parents who got bad news would then have to choose to abort.

As I know from personal experience, “35 is the recommended age to begin amnio testing because that is the age at which the risk of carrying a fetus with such a defect roughly equals the risk of miscarriage caused by the procedure — about one in 200,” or 0.5 percent.

Even one report marshaling arguments against abortion that I found noted that a 1991 study showed “as many as four out of every 1000 recognized pregnancies are terminated in the second trimester for fetal abnormality.” The Guttmacher Institute, which began as an arm of Planned Parenthood, doesn’t even list genetic anomalies as a major reason given for aborting.

Maybe what he meant to say is that most expectant parents who get bad news choose to abort.

But beyond the numbers, it’s inconsistent to argue that pregnant women need all the information they can get — unless it’s bad news.

I myself am pro-info, even as someone who had a bad experience with amnio when pregnant with my twins. (With twins, the person doing the test “punctures the first amniotic sac, injects it with dye, then punctures the second sac with a different needle. If the fluid from the second sac is clear, it didn’t come from the first sac.”)

I found it traumatic to have the technician literally screaming “Dye! Dye!” — which as someone was shoving a needle into my abdomen sounded a lot like, “Die! Die!”

My first obstetrician — the one I fired — had advised me to abort well before that, after I developed pregnancy-related tachycardia, an accelerated heart rate. Essentially, as I later figured out, this malady constituted not so much a serious medical risk to me as a perceived malpractice risk to him, because I couldn’t take the usual meds to control my racing heart and instead had to be on bed rest for seven months to keep from passing out — a fantastic trade, even if I didn’t feel so jammy at the time.

Lots of women have amnios because they want to know, even if only to prepare themselves, to the extent possible, for a challenging situation.

And lots of politicians ought to stop trying to pass off feelings as facts. Glenn Kessler, over to you.

Melinda Henneberger is a Post political writer and anchor of She the People. Follow her on Twitter at @MelindaDC.

By  |  05:56 PM ET, 02/19/2012

Tags:  Rick Santorum, amnios, amniocentesis and Santorum, GOP primary, Jennifer Rubin, social conservatives, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh

 
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