Blog Post

Fetal Sex Testing Has Arrived in the USA

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer (Feb. 29, 2008)  The United Nations estimates that 200 million girls are currently “missing” from the planet as a result of sex-selection abortion, largely because of a preference for boys in many Asian cultures. While most of us have been unaware, the same practice of fetal sex testing has been becoming increasingly more acceptable in North America. Perhaps the best evidence of the mainstreaming of this barbaric practice is an article appearing in the February 24 issue of The Los Angeles Times.  Entitled “Accuracy of Gender Tests in Question”, and written by Karen Kaplan, the article mentions nothing about the ethical implications of this practice and focuses entirely on the accuracy of the tests and how many parents are suing because the results turned out to be wrong. Although none of the women interviewed in Kaplan’s article actually chose abortion, it was certainly implied by most of them. For instance, one woman decided to take the “Pink or Blue” test when “an unexpected pregnancy presented the couple with a dilemma,” Kaplan writes. The woman wanted to keep the baby, but her husband wasn’t too sure. “With two daughters already, the family's finances were a bit strained. Could they really afford a third child?” The woman was of Indian descent and because boys are culturally more desirable, she decided to take the test just to be sure. The results told her the child was a boy and the couple was thrilled. They went through with the pregnancy only to find out in the delivery room that the test was wrong. They had a girl. “After the initial shock and a tinge of sadness, the family quickly bonded with Anika,” Kaplan writes. Another couple with three boys was so desperate for a girl they spent $25,000 on in-vitro fertilization so that doctors could select only female embryos to implant in her womb. However, after the procedure was done, she kept wondering if the doctors might have made a mistake and decided to take a DNA test just to be sure. The test mistakenly told them they were having another boy. The couple decided to trust their in-vitro doctors, who had already destroyed an unnamed number of male embryos in the process, and went through with the pregnancy. They had a girl after all. Throughout the lengthy article detailing the different brands of tests, how much they cost, how many women are suing for inaccurate results, Kaplan continues to ignore the “elephant in the living room” – abortion. But many others couldn’t miss it. Columnist William Saletan of believes that the fact that the moral implications of prenatal sex testing wasn’t even mentioned in the article is the best indicator of just far  public acceptance of the practice has come. “How many of those tests have led to abortions? Nobody knows,” he writes. “And that’s the point. Because the test is taken at home, nobody but the couple has to know that the subsequent abortion is for sex selection.” But Kaplan’s article never ventures into this territory. It’s all about the price of prenatal sex tests that are now as cheap as $300 or less. Even though they often fail, she writes, the advent of this technology allows couples to find out in five to seven weeks what usually takes 10 to 16 weeks with an ultrasound. Why couples would want to find this out so much earlier is a question Kaplan doesn’t address. Perhaps it’s because the answer is so obvious - so that they can acquire a surgical or perhaps even a chemical abortion before anyone even knows they’re pregnant. “The very idea of elective prenatal sex-testing used to be controversial,” Saletan writes, “especially in light of rampant sex-selective abortion in Asia. Now these tests are being bought, used, and reported just like any other prenatal test. The couples who use them are described just as sympathetically. The problem isn’t that they’re screening their offspring for sex. The problem is that in doing so they’re being thwarted by flawed technology and exaggerated marketing.” But we shouldn’t blame the Times for ignoring the horror of worldwide sex-selection abortion, he says. The problem is our own culture where “the underlying stigma has already decayed.” Eventually, we’ll just establish rules to ensure the safety and efficacy of fetal sex tests, and declare them to be adequately regulated, he says. “And that’s how a taboo begins to die.” © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace.