Genetic counselors and sex selection abortions

 

By Sarah Terzo

genetic4Rayna Rapp interviewed counselors at genetic clinics where women came to have their babies tested for disabilities including Down syndrome. The counselors then discussed with the women whether or not they would have abortions. Many of the women who came in aborted when they found out that their babies would have a genetic disease or handicap. Some, however, had the tests not to determine whether the baby would be disabled, but to determine whether or not the baby was of the desired sex. According to Rapp:

“Along the same lines, every counselor deplored abortion of a healthy fetus for reasons of sex selection, but all could tell the stories of the once or twice in their careers when someone had chosen termination because their healthy fetus was the “wrong sex.” And usually, the wrong sex was the female sex. Such fetal “feticide” makes feminist theorists and activists justifiably very angry and pessimistic. Counselors are very troubled by their collusion with such drastic actions, but also express the discipline imposed by their nondirective stance. After all, most reason, a “woman’s right to choose” extends to deciding to abort for whatever cause she finds meaningful, and this one denotes profound problems in her life should she produce an extra daughter instead of a much desired son. Counselors perceive this problem to be particularly burdensome for Chinese and Indian women, who come from groups in which sons are more highly valued. In these communities, there have been public discussions of the uses of sex selection to produce them… Despite their own ethical beliefs, most counselors provide counseling services even when they know that a diagnosis is being sought for sex selection reasons.”

Rayna Rapp “Testing Women, Testing the Fetus: the Social Impact of Amniocentesis in America “(New York: Routledge, 1999) 94

Note: the baby below was 16 weeks along. At the time this book was written, and ultrasound could only detect the sex of the baby at 18 to 20 weeks. All of these abortions that were done to kill female babies were done late-term.