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Prenat Diagn. 1993 Aug;13(8):707-22.

Attitudes toward abortion for fetal anomaly in the second vs. the third trimester: a survey of Parisian obstetricians.

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Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, MD 21205.


Cross-cultural differences exist in prenatal diagnosis and abortion for fetal anomaly, stemming from variations in laws, reimbursement policies, litigation, physicians' decision-making authority, and attitudes toward the prevention of handicaps. The first part of this paper discusses such differences in France and the U.S. The second part describes a survey of practising obstetricians in Paris, designed to assess (1) their attitudes toward pregnancy termination for various conditions, (2) their concern about fetal viability, (3) their desire for diagnostic certainty before justifying a late abortion, and (4) their perceived role in such decision-making. Among the 64.8 per cent (N = 217) who responded, the majority supported third-trimester termination (TTT) for diseases such as spina bifida, trisomy 21, microcephaly, and Duchenne muscular dystrophy; 30-59 per cent supported TTT for cystic fibrosis and sickle cell disease; and 22-29 per cent supported TTT for haemophilia, tetralogy of Fallot, limb amputation, and Turner and Klinefelter syndromes. Obstetricians who approved of abortion across trimesters were less concerned with the certainty of diagnosis than its severity, more likely to think that abortion ought to be the parents' choice, but more likely to report making a recommendation to the parents about whether to abort a fetus. Such permissive abortion attitudes might imply more permissive prenatal diagnosis and abortion practice among Parisian obstetricians, which might lead to increased migration of patients from other E.C. countries. Cross-cultural variation in obstetric practice suggests that an international registry of pregnancies terminated for medical reasons, enabling further study of this issue, would be valuable.

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