By David Prentice
Editor’s note. This appeared on Dr. Prentice’s excellent blog.
A review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association documents the accuracy of a simple blood test for sex determination of a developing human fetus as early as 7 weeks gestation. The study simply looked at the reliability of such tests, but did not bother to address the ethical questions about such tests, other than a brief mention: “A much broader potential application for fetal sex detection is family balancing, which poses ethical concerns.”
The availability of early accurate fetal testing can easily be abused for sex selection or other eugenic abortions. Indeed, ethicists on all sides of the abortion debate recognize the concerns. Pro-choice ethicist Arthur Caplan calls this a “troubling technology,” while Wesley Smith notes:
Society will rise or fall ethically by how we live our individual lives. Thus, we may want a boy or a girl, but that does not mean we should do whatever it takes to obtain our desire.
Eugenic abortions, including sex selective abortions, are unfortunately widespread. Estimates are that over 160 million female babies have been aborted since the 1970s by parents who wanted sons instead of daughters. And eugenic testing and abortion of individuals with conditions such as Down Syndrome is also well documented.
The eugenic process of sex selective abortion is leading to an estimated 10%-20% excess in young males in China and India. The increasingly easy availability of fetal testing will only accelerate this imbalance, as well as other eugenic practices. As William McGurn has noted, 160 million girls aborted simply because they weren’t boys is a “moral outrage.”