"Will My Baby Be Normal?": A History of Genetic Counseling in the United States, 1940-1970
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Genetic counselors today are at the forefront of helping clients interpret genetic information to help them make decisions, often about childbearing, based on testing and medical histories. Scholars of medicine, reproduction, and gender in the United States have traced the medicalization of pregnancy and interactions between parents and medical authorities. These works explore the interplay of medicine, society, and reproduction, but they do not address the history of genetic counseling. I argue that doctors and patients reciprocally shaped each other's thinking about reproduction in the mid-twentieth century. Parents' desires for normal, healthy children shaped the development of genetic counseling by motivating them to seek the services of genetic counselors. These prospective parents' expectations and desires had an outsized influence on the development of genetic counseling because counselors were sensitive to possible associations with eugenics and were careful not to tell parents what to do with the genetic information they provided.
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