Over the past few years, the use of non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) has increased dramatically. There are now more than 40 different tests on the market, according to a October 2021 Pew Trust Report. Many young women are using these tests with no idea of how unreliable they can be, and some are tragically choosing to abort based on the tests.

Very few of the manufacturers of these tests publish any data on their reliability, while others point to less than satisfactory studies to support their products.

A recent analysis by the New York Times found that positive results of these tests were wrong an astounding 85% of the time

Doctors often recommend these tests as a way for parents to know if their baby could have certain rare disorders such as DiGeorge syndrome, 1p36 deletion, Cri-du-chat syndrome, Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, and Prader-Willi and Angelman syndromes. 

While accurate data could help parents prepare for such a disorder, the tests - including the wrong results - are frequently used to abort babies that are considered undesirable.

On Feb. 14, 2022, pro-life leaders sent a letter to Congress urging an end to Medicaid funding for such test, and also for women to be made aware of their unreliability. 

The American Family Association (AFA) was a signer of the letter.

"This coalition letter basically talks about genetic tests that are being marketed to pregnant women as a way to determine whether their unborn child suffers from a rare genetic condition such as Down syndrome," said Rob Chambers, vice president of policy and legislative affairs for AFA. "We would urge [those lawmakers] to ensure that any pregnant women who are receiving these tests are warned that they are largely inaccurate."  

"Studies indicate that these tests are wrong basically about 85% of the time," Chambers said, "but many times women who get that news are aborting their baby. We would ask supporters to contact their members of the House and Senate about this information."

Other individuals or organizations who signed on the letter include Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie of the Catholic Association; Faith Wins; Faith and Freedom Coalition; Kristan Hawkins, Students for Life of America and Students for Life Action; Eagle Forum; Dr. Alveda King, Speak for Life; Frontiers of Freedom, March for Life Action; Phyllis Schlafly Eagles, Concerned Women for America, and the American Principles Project. 

“This situation requires immediate attention from Congress because these all too often inaccurate and flawed tests have tragically misled pregnant women into terminating otherwise healthy pregnancies,” the letter states, requesting that the Senate Subcommittee on Healthcare and the House Subcommittee on Health investigate whether the Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) is appropriately regulating NIPTs 

“These tests, which are marketed to expectant families as a way to determine whether their unborn child suffers from a rare genetic condition, are wrong a remarkable 85% of the time according to a recent report,” the pro-life entities wrote. “Considering the fact that these unreliable tests are now used by more than a third of pregnant women in America and that many families have tragically opted for an abortion when a potentially false positive is rendered instead of seeking another test to confirm the result, the lives of millions o unborn children are at risk.”

The letter goes on to say that test manufacturers mislead pregnant women into believing the tests accurately detect extraordinarily rare disorders “when, in fact, they are correct in only 15% of cases.” The pro-life leader also noted how a trade association for the companies that sell the tests issued a statement criticizing the NYT reporting on the issue, calling it misleading. 

The pro-life coalition called for Congress to ensure that anyone receiving an NIPT be warned that the tests are largely inaccurate and to prohibit Medicaid funding “to cover tests that may mislead women into killing their unborn children.”

March for Life President Jeanne Mancini said the issue highlights the need to support parents who receive and adverse prenatal diagnosis.

“Parents who receive such a prognosis while their baby is in utero should be given the medical and other supports necessary to allow them to cherish the gift of life, but most often they are not supported in this way,” Mancini said. “That prenatal tests are consistently erroneous adds an even deeper level of tragedy to the wrongful pressure on parents to abort,” she said. “In the end, every life is a gift and deserves protection — regardless of disability.” 

Following the NYT report, 97 Republican Members of Congress wrote the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for answers on its involvement with noninvasive prenatal testing, including any authority the FDA has over the tests 

Many of these tests have not been approved by the FDA, and there is concern over a focus on profit over accuracy and transparency. 

In its October 2021 report the Pew Trust said regarding lab-developed tests overall that a lack of FDA oversight presented a risk to patients and called for reforms “to ensure accuracy, reliability, and quality.”

Rep. Chip Roy of Texas spoke with The Daily Signal about the Republican lawmakers’ letter to the FDA, sharing a personal experience with an unborn child who could have been targeted with abortion after prenatal testing.

"When I first read the troubling New York Times story on noninvasive prenatal testing, I thought of my godson, who was recommended for abortion following a prenatal screening," Roy said. "He was born perfectly healthy, and to this day, I am thankful that his parents chose life over fear.” 

“Many other folks I know have stories like this,” Roy said. “These tests have always raised ethical concerns because they can be used for eugenic purposes, and these recent findings about their efficacy only make the problem worse.”

“It is unacceptable that the FDA is not conducting proper oversight on these inconsistent prenatal tests that often pressure women into making a life-ending decision for their baby,” said Sen. Steve Daines (Mont.) {I hope to get answers regarding these deeply concerning findings immediately as lives are depending on it.”

Rep. Michelle Fischbach (Minn.) said, "It is irresponsible for these noninvasive prenatal tests to be issued with such a high rate of inaccuracy. Furthermore, I am very worried parents are being pressured to take these tests, not as a way to prepare for the arrival of their child, but as a financial windfall for manufacturers that results in the termination of innocent life."

Pro-life groups that supported the Roy-Fischbach-Daines letter to the FDA noninvasive prenatal genetic testing included Students for Life Action, Family Research Council, Susan B. Anthony List, National Right to Life Action, March for Life Action, Heritage Action, Family Policy Alliance, and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.