Since, at least in the near future, prenatal testing and abortion of affected fetuses will remain the main way of the prevention of genetic diseases, knowledge about the way of its acceptance in different cultures is important. The Israeli population includes two major groups: Jewish and Arabs, but while there is wide experience about the Jewish population and its attitude towards prenatal testing, little is known about the Arab population. This knowledge is particularly important, since genetic disorders are relatively frequent in the Arab world (Teebi and Farag, 1997). From 1992 to 1996, 816 prenatal tests were performed in our department on Arab women [143 chorionic villus sampling (CVS) procedures and 673 amniocenteses]. The indication for an early prenatal test was a high risk for a monogenic disorder in 140 out of the 146 tests performed (143 CVS procedures and three early amniocenteses). In 26 cases, the fetus was found to be affected and early abortion was chosen by the couple in 25 cases (96 per cent). The 670 late prenatal tests were done for various reasons including monogenic disorders (13 per cent), increased risk because of a previous child affected with Down syndrome or a neural tube defect (4·8 per cent), and an increased risk for a chromosomal aberration (78 per cent). In 31 cases of a late prenatal test, the fetus was found to be affected and only 21 couples (70 per cent) opted for an abortion. The major reason for this observation is probably related to religious and cultural factors. Since Arab women do not wish to have prenatal testing for only knowledge or reassurance, these factors should be taken into consideration during pre-amniocentesis counselling. © 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.