A new test that promises to reveal an unborn baby’s sex at just eight weeks of pregnancy is causing concerns about sex-selection abortions.
For many couples, finding out their unborn baby’s sex is a celebratory occasion. But for others, the news brings thoughts of or even pressure to have an abortion.
The Deccan Chronicle reports the new, non-invasive pin-prick test uses a drop of the mother’s blood to analyze the unborn baby’s genetic traits, including sex and possible disabilities. Brazilian researchers who developed the test say it accurately predicted the unborn baby’s sex in every case involving 101 pregnant mothers who were eight weeks pregnant.
But bioethics experts already have raised concerns that the test “could fuel a ‘genocide’ of female babies,” the Daily Mail reports.
“Many pregnant women and couples find out the sex of their foetus simply so they can prepare for a baby of one sex or the other, or because they are curious,” Hugh Whittall, director of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, told the British news outlet. “However, revealing the sex of the foetus at such an early stage of pregnancy increases the risk of terminations on the basis of sex taking place.”
In some countries, unborn baby girls are targeted for abortions. The gendercide has become a national crisis in China and India, so much so that India prohibits medical professionals from even telling parents the sex of their baby before birth.
Experts say millions of girls are missing from the world as a result of sex-selection abortions, often driven by cultural preferences for boys.
The gender imbalance in India is one of the worst in the world. The 2011 India census data indicates there were 914 girls for every 1,000 boys under age 7, according to the BBC. In some parts of the country, the population imbalance was even worse. In the state of Tiruvannamalai, men outnumbered women at a ratio of 1,000 to 878.
In late 2016, a government report suggested that, despite India’s rising income levels, sex-selection abortions and infanticide of girls continue to occur.
China has similar problems, with a ratio of 115.88 boys to 100 girls at birth in 2014, according to research by the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Many link the country’s oppressive one-child policy (recently changed to a two-child policy) to the gender imbalance.
As a result, Whittall does not think any good can come from the new 8-week test.
“Given that there are few benefits to most pregnant women of finding out the sex of the fetus in the first few weeks of pregnancy, we believe that test providers should not be allowed to give out this kind of information,” he said.