Study: Gender Test Works, Could Lead to Sex-Selection Abortions

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 9, 2011   |   5:17PM   |   Washington, DC

A new study regarding the effectiveness of a test that identifies the gender of an unborn child is raising new fears that it could be used to identify girl babies who could be subjected to sex-selection abortions.

The Intelligender test kit, one of a handful of different kinds, has prompted concerns over the last few years that it could lead to an increase in the use of sex-selection abortions. Australia pharmacies began selling the kit years ago and it eventually made its way to New Zealand — claiming to be able to detect the gender of an unborn child when used. The test kit makers claim the test offers a 90 percent accuracy rate in determining the sex of the baby after eight weeks into the pregnancy.

Also sold in the United States since 2006, the test takes 10 minutes and supposedly identifies a “confidential element” found in the hormones of a pregnant woman when she is carrying a girl. When a pregnant woman’s urine is mixed with the chemicals in the kit, it supposedly turns green or black to indicate a boy and orange or yellow to indicate a girl.

Now, researchers published an article in the Wednesday issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association using a process similar to the kit to identify the gender of the child in 6,000 pregnancies and the research finds the test is surprisingly accurate. The researchers examined 57 published studies involving sex-identification during pregnancy, although the method was not necessarily the same as the kit sold worldwide.

They found the accuracy of the kit increases as the pregnancy advances and used, according to AP, a lab procedure called PCR that detects genetic identifiers, the male Y chromosome. The researchers did not test the actual kits sold to consumers from the Internet, but they said test using the mother’s urine or blood before seven weeks into pregnancy are not accurate.

According to an AP report, the authors of the study suggested that consumers should be questioned about how they intend to use the kit before pharmacies sell it to them.

Dr. Diana Bianchi, of the Mother Infant Research Institute at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, conducted the study and said the process is effective in determining the gender of the baby and that it could be used for beneficial reasons — such as ruling out the need for testing to determine if the baby has certain disorders linked to a certain gender.

Dr. Lee Shulman, chief of clinical genetics at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, who was not involved in the study, told AP that gender tests should not be used for non-medical reasons.

“I would have a lot of difficulties offering such a test just for gender identification. Gender is not an abnormality,” Shulman said. “My concern is this is ultimately going to be available in malls or shopping centers.”

Consumer Genetics Inc. a Santa Clara, California is one of the companies selling the kits, AP indicates, and Terry Carmichael, the company’s executive vice president, said the company sells 1,000 kits annually for $25 plus $265 or more for laboratory testing that it says is 95 percent accurate. However, he said the company will not sell the kits of people in China or Indiana because of sex-selection abortion concerns.

When the possibility of the test going to New Zealand came up, Dr. Ted Weaver, head of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said, “The concern we would have is that people would then terminate pregnancies on the grounds of sex selection.”

Bernard Moran, the head of the pro-life group Voice for Life, said he worries about sex-selection abortions, which are more common in Asian nations like China and India, becoming prevalent in New Zealand.

“Certain ethnic minorities here might be more prone to use it,” he said.