Background: DNA prenatal diagnosis for cystic fibrosis (CF) has been available for parents of affected children since late 1985.
Methods: Using anonymous questionnaires, we surveyed 395 parents of children with CF at 12 New England CF centers with regard to 12 maternal or family situations and 11 fetal characteristics; 271 (68%) responded.
Results: The majority supported legal abortion in the first trimester for all 23 situations; 58% would abort for severe mental retardation (MR), 40% would abort for a genetic disorder leading to death before age five years, 41% for a child bedridden for life, 35% for moderate MR, 20% for CF and 17% for a severe incurable disorder starting at age 40 years. Few would abort for a disorder starting at age 60 years, for genetic susceptibility to alcoholism or for sex selection. Variables most strongly related to abortion for CF were attitudes of spouse, respondent's siblings, and CF doctor toward abortion for CF as well as infrequent attendance at religious services.
Conclusions: Prenatal diagnosis may not reduce substantially the number of CF births to parents of CF children because most do not accept abortion for CF.