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Labour minister calls for ban on early foetus sex test

Warning given over sex-selection terminations

Jo Carlowe

Monday, 17 September 2018

Labour is calling for a ban on early foetus sex tests to prevent terminations of pregnancies based on gender.

MP Naz Shah, shadow women and equalities minister, has dubbed the use of non-invasive prenatal tests (NIPT) to discover a baby’s gender as “morally wrong”.

NIPT is available on the NHS to detect genetic conditions but not to inform prospective parents of their baby’s sex, however parents can pay for this privately. Private clinics offer the test for around £170, with some only requiring a drop of blood to provide postal results.

Ms Shah said a preference for boys in some communities has led to the test being used to abort pregnancies.

“NIPT screenings should be used for their intended purpose, to screen for serious conditions such as Down’s syndrome,” she told the BBC, however she said in some communities pressure was put on women “forcing them to adopt methods such as NIPT to live up to expectations of family members.”

“The government needs to look into this exploitative practice and enforce appropriate restrictions,” she said.

A report last year by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics warned that while there was limited evidence of sex-selective terminations taking place in the UK, there was a “real possibility that permitting NIPT for sex determination in the UK may be encouraging sex selection.”

It is illegal in the UK to abort a pregnancy based on the sex of the foetus, but the report warned that the laws were not clear cut.

The Department of Health and Social Care has said it will continue to review the evidence.

“The prenatal test is never meant to be used for gender,” a spokesperson said.

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