Medical researchers are seeking a method for detecting chromosomal abnormalities in unborn children without requiring invasive procedures such as anmiocentesis. Software has been developed to utilize a light microscope to detect fetal cells that occur with very low frequency in a sample of maternal blood. This rare event detection involves dividing a microscope slide containing a maternal blood sample into as many as 40,000 fields, automatically focusing on each field-of-view, and searching for fetal cells. Size and shape information is obtained by calculating a figure of merit through various binary operations and is used to discriminate fetal cells from noise and artifacts. Once the rare fetal cells are located, the slide is automatically rescanned to count the total number of cells on the slide. Binary operations and image processing hardware are used as much as possible to reduce the total amount of time to analyze one slide. Current runtime for scoring one full slide is about four hours, with motorized stage movement and focusing being the speed-limiting factors. Fetal cells occurring with a frequency of less than 1 in 200,000 maternal cells have been consistently found with this system.