Genetic Counseling for Sex Chromosome Anomalies (SCAs) in Israel and Germany: Assessing Medical Risks According to the Importance of Fertility in Two Cultures


In this article, I report findings from a comparative study of Israeli and German genetic counselors. Specifically, it concerns counselors’ attitudes and risk assessments relating to prenatal diagnosis of sex chromosome anomalies (SCAs) such as Klinefelter and Turner syndromes. Data collected through in-depth interviews with counselors in both countries (N = 32) are presented, and the types of claims experts deploy in their personal and professional estimation of the risks involved in SCAs are analyzed. The article concludes by suggesting that the counselors rhetoric concerning SCAs, whose major manifestation is the future infertility of the unborn child as well as their estimations of the related risks, should be situated in a broader cultural context, that of local Israeli and German understandings of the importance of fertility, and not in their professional nondirective ethos. Hence, to understand the practice of genetic counselors in two late-modern societies, one must understand the unique relationship between the individual bodies of pregnant women and the body politics of their nations, a relationship mediated by the counselors, who are the bearers of knowledge and expertise in this field.