By Laura Echevarria
Nearly every expectant parent wonders what color the nursery will need to be. In a scene played out in imaging centers around the country, a sonogram technician will run a sonogram wand over the slightly rounded belly of a mother-to-be, while with nervous anticipation, a couple waits to hear if their bundle of joy is a boy or a girl.
But all of this may change. A simply blood test that screens for fetal genetic matter may make all of this a thing of the past, replacing amniocentesis, chorionic villus sampling, and ultrasound which all are done much later.
A review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) documents that there is a simple test capable of detecting the sex of an unborn child with great accuracy as early as seven weeks into a woman’s pregnancy. The test uses fetal DNA that passes into the mother’s bloodstream after it is shed by the baby. If Y chromosomes are present then the baby is male; lacking that marker the baby is a girl.
The researchers reviewed 57 studies involving 3,524 pregnancies where the child was male and 3,017 where the child born was a female. After reviewing the data and analyzing the results, researchers found that blood tests had an accuracy of 95.4 percent.
But with the accuracy comes the risk of a more sinister use for the test—sex selective abortions.
According to the Associated Press (AP), researchers who studied the accuracy of the tests say they could be used by women at risk for having a child with a disease or condition that is tied to a specific gender. This can be helpful for treatment options, but researchers also warned that the tests could be used for the purposes of sex-selection abortions. In either instance, a child could be aborted simply for being an undesired gender.
Dr. Lee Shulman, chief of clinical genetics at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, told the AP,“I would have a lot of difficulties offering such a test just for gender identification. Gender is not an abnormality. My concern is [if] this is ultimately going to be available in malls or shopping centers.”
In countries such as China and India, sex selective abortions are used primarily to abort female babies because of the social preference for male children. Though this is now illegal in India, authorities have found that sex selection abortions are still being done in that country. China’s coercive one-child policy combined with a cultural preference for males has resulted in the country having far more males that females in the population—119 males for every 100 females.
Recent studies have shown that immigrants have brought this preference to the United States and Canada. TIME magazine noted that, in 2006, 42 percent of infertility clinics offering pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to screen for genetic diseases in embryos used for in vitro fertilization also screened for sex selection purposes.
These new tests are unnerving even staunch pro-abortionists.
“Should genetic testing — in combination with abortion — purely for sex selection be part of medicine?” asks ethicist Arthur Caplan in a piece that ran on MSNBC.com this week. “Is it ethical to end a pregnancy because you don’t want a girl? The answer to both questions is ‘no.’ Being male or female is not a disease or a disorder. Wanting a boy is a preference, but it is not one that justifies ending a pregnancy.
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