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Bioethics think tank says new prenatal test could lead to aborting babies who are the “wrong gender” or with other “undesirable” traits

by | May 24, 2017

Says technique should be “restricted”

Editor’s note. This is based on a post that appeared on the blog of SPUC–the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children and is reposted with permission.

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has warned that Non-Invasive Prenatal Screening (NIPT) could lead to babies being aborted because they are the wrong gender or have other “undesirable” characteristics.

NIPT, a blood test which can detect genetic conditions as well as sex and other traits, will be offered to expectant mothers to screen for Down syndrome, Patau’s and Edwards’ syndromes if doctors already fear their baby has a higher than average risk from this year.

It was approved for use on the National Health Service (NHS) in October 2016, despite the concerns of medics and campaigners that it would lead to an even higher percentage of babies with Down syndrome and other genetic conditions being aborted.

Now, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, a Government backed think tank, has said that the technique should be restricted, to prevent it being used for spurious reasons. They say that private clinics are selling it to couples to discover the baby’s sex, without being asked to prove that there is a high possibility of a genetic condition.

Sex selection tourism

Professor Tom Shakespeare, chair of the body’s working group on NIPT, warned that the test could encourage “sex-selection tourists,” from other countries who want to be sure they are having a boy.

“Abortions on the basis of sex appear to be rare in Britain,” he said. “However, this could change with a new DNA testing method that allows the baby’s sex to be revealed to prospective parents much earlier that the standard 18-20 week scan,” he said.

“We know that some women are under strong pressure to give birth to boys, and may be subject to abuse if they give birth to a girl. If left unchecked, use of this technique to determine sex could lead to an increase in sex-selective abortions here, and to Britain becoming a destination for them.”

“If left unchecked, use of this technique to determine sex could lead to an increase in sex-selective abortions here, and to Britain becoming a destination for them.”