The Complicated Quest for a Healthy Baby: Christian Ethics in Conversation with Genetic Counselors & New Mothers from Underrepresented Communities

“… programs, etc.—to respond meaningfully to need and questions related to prenatal genetics of congregants and others of diverse backgrounds? ”

Team Members/Contributors

Aana Marie Vigen Loyola University Chicago Contact Me

About this sabbatical grant for researchers

The prospect of prenatal genetic testing can give pregnant women a lot to think about. Yet, it is also possible to have genetic testing without giving it much thought or even without being fully aware that one is having it. Many expectant mothers lacking insurance and/or living poverty miss out on basic prenatal care, let alone the opportunity to consider genetic testing. Moreover, U.S. Black and Latina women are often at a higher risk for poor birth outcomes (low birth weight, more pre-term births, higher infant mortality rates) than their white, non-Hispanic counterparts.

In light of such realities, this research explores how listening closely to Black and Latina new mothers and genetic counselors who work with under-served populations might expand public moral imagination—especially for prospective parents, churches and healthcare providers. Christian ethicists, churches, and healthcare practitioners will profit from listening closely to these constituencies about how to incorporate genetic testing into prenatal care in ways that effectively address maternal-child health disparities and that bolster women’s agency in their own prenatal care. Equipped with accurate and thoughtful resources (e.g. parish nurse programs, adult education classes, premarital counseling, parent groups, childcare networks, etc.), churches can serve as helpful places for women—of various racial-ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds— to connect proactively with prenatal care, to learn accurate information about prenatal genetic testing options and to consider intentionally their own needs and values.