Tuesday, April 24, 2018

New test that determines a baby's sex after just eight weeks sparks fears of sex-selection abortions in countries such as China and India

As reported by Stephen Matthews and George Martin in the London Daily Mail, April 24, 2018 (link in original):

Scientists have sparked controversy after creating a pin-prick test that can determine the gender of a baby after just eight weeks.

Concerns have been raised the test could trigger a rise in sex-selective abortions, especially in countries such as India and China where families desire boys over girls for cultural reasons.

A recently published government report in India found that the country has 63 million fewer woman then it should because families are choosing to abort their female babies.

The situation is much the same in China, where men outnumber women by 34 million - significantly more than the entire population of Australia.

Experts claim the controversial one-child policy, which lasted from the 1970s until 2015, helped to create the imbalance as families sought to have a son.

It is feared the new pin-prick test could fuel a 'genocide' of female babies in India and China as parents are given more time than previously to make a decision on whether to abort their babies.

Experts also fear the test - which is similar to a version set to be rolled out on the NHS this year - could also fuel terminations in the UK, where the abortion time limit is 24 weeks.

Parents-to-be are currently offered the chance to find out the sex of their child at their 20-week scan in the UK. But it is not 100 per cent accurate.

Some critics have also expressed concerns such tests could lead to a rise in sex-selection tourism. However, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service today condemned such fears as 'unfounded'.

The pin-prick test has been created by Brazilian researchers who set out to improve the existing non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT), which already spots Down's syndrome and two other genetic conditions.

The updated test, created by a team at Sabin Laboratory in Brasilia - the capital of Brazil - have updated the NIPT to make it able to spot the sex of a foetus with just a drop of blood.

In experiments on 101 pregnant women, the team led by Dr Gustavo Barra found the test was completely accurate from eight weeks gestation.

Some private firms in the UK already charge women keen to discover the gender of their baby hundreds of pounds to take the test during the first trimester.

Hugh Whittall, director of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, today told MailOnline: '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.

'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.

'There is limited evidence about the extent to which sex selective terminations are taking place in the UK, but there is a real possibility that permitting very early tests for sex may encourage sex selection, both among UK residents and through "sex selection tourism".

'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.'

Dr Andrew McLennan, a gynaecologist at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, told NewScientist that it could lead to more sex-selective abortions.

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