Photo of the U.S. Supreme Court in black and white.
A key aspect of current prenatal care includes screening for genetic disorders.

What Does the Roe v. Wade Ruling Mean for Prenatal Testing?

Here’s how the recent Supreme Court ruling is likely to affect prenatal testing

Rachel Muenz
Aug 05, 2022 | 2 min read

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has taken away women’s rights to an abortion by revoking Roe v. Wade, basic lab testing for prenatal and reproductive care is also up in the air. Here are some of the legal implications of the recent decision when it comes to prenatal testing.

Testing for genetic disorders 

A key aspect of current prenatal care for pregnant individuals includes screening tests to detect the risk of a child being born with medical conditions caused by genetic disorders, as well as diagnostic tests to confirm those results. According to the CDC, genetic conditions affect around 3 percent of babies born in the US each year. Testing for these conditions starts at 11 weeks gestation via blood tests and ultrasound. If a condition is detected, patients can confirm the results through more in-depth testing and, based on the results and consultation with their health care team, decide whether they wish to continue their pregnancy.

But, with Roe v. Wade gone, depending on the abortion restrictions in each state, women may no longer have that option or may be forced to make the decision too early. Since some states restrict abortions past certain weeks of gestation, some providers are now doing prenatal testing earlier than usual. Performing prenatal testing earlier can make it difficult  to detect some conditions, meaning a health issue may go undetected, forcing women to carry a child to term who may have a serious health condition, or who may not survive long after birth.

IVF treatments

Another area of prenatal and reproductive care affected by the Supreme Court decision regards in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments. In this application, preimplantation genetic testing screening for certain genetic disorders helps ensure patients choose the healthiest embryo for implantation. However, IVF can produce many embryos from the same couple, and depending on the abortion restrictions in their state, aborting extra embryos could lead to liability issues, meaning all embryos would need to be implanted, complicating the IVF process.

Because of these complications, many patients may choose not to undergo IVF or choose methods that produce fewer embryos but with lower success rates.

While it will take years to determine how exactly the Roe v. Wade decision will affect prenatal testing and reproductive care, another potential problem involves health insurance. Insurance companies may drop coverage for prenatal testing in states that restrict access to abortion, meaning patients would have to pay for these tests themselves. That would not only harm the lab industry, but also leave patients who cannot afford the costs of such tests without the information they need to make informed decisions about their pregnancies.

For a more in-depth look at how the U.S. Supreme Court’s revocation of Roe v. Wade could affect prenatal testing, read this Diagnostic Testing & Emerging Technologies story from TCL’s partner brand, G2 Intelligence.