Prenatal Screening, Reproductive Choice, and Public Health

10 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2014

Date Written: January 2015


One widely held view of prenatal screening (PNS) is that its foremost aim is, or should be, to enable reproductive choice; this is the Pure Choice view. The article critiques this position by comparing it with an alternative: Public Health Pluralism. It is argued that there are good reasons to prefer the latter, including the following. (1) Public Health Pluralism does not, as is often supposed, render PNS more vulnerable to eugenics‐objections. (2) The Pure Choice view, if followed through to its logical conclusions, may have unpalatable implications, such as extending choice well beyond health screening. (3) Any sensible version of Public Health Pluralism will be capable of taking on board the moral seriousness of abortion and will advocate, where practicable, alternative means of reducing the prevalence of disease and disability. (4) Public Health Pluralism is at least as well‐equipped as the Pure Choice model to deal with autonomy and consent issues.

Keywords: prenatal, screening, public health, autonomy, reproduction, eugenics, consent

Suggested Citation

Wilkinson, Stephen, Prenatal Screening, Reproductive Choice, and Public Health (January 2015). Bioethics, Vol. 29, Issue 1, pp. 26-35, 2015. Available at SSRN: or

Stephen Wilkinson (Contact Author)

Lancaster University ( email )

Lancaster LA1 4YX
United Kingdom

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