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On a societal level, King said she’s concerned that the prenatal diagnosis might become seen as a way of “curing” diseases by aborting fetuses that have them.

Greely recently spoke about prenatal diagnosis before the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical issues, a federal advisory board. Valerie Bonham, executive director, said the commission may pursue the topic further as part of a project on DNA technology. “It’s an important and emerging issue,” she said.

Norton doesn’t believe the arrival of a blood test for DNA analysis would raise all the issues some observers cite. But she thinks it’s still a good idea to talk about what the new technology could mean.

“I think that it is always better and helpful and important to bring up all of these issues, whether they are likely to really become reality or not,” she said.

“Once you’ve opened Pandora’s box, it’s harder to close it.”