British women are discussing sex-selective abortion online, a BBC investigation has found, prompting calls for restrictions on an early pregnancy test which can reveal a baby’s sex.
The NHS is rolling out Non Invasive Prenatal Tests (NIPTs), but some non-NHS clinics are using the tests to tell expectant parents the sex of their baby.
Critics have already voiced fears NIPTs will lead to more abortions of babies with Down’s syndrome.
According to the Victoria Derbyshire programme, British women are discussing their anxiety about having a girl in thousands of posts on online forums.
One wrote: “I NEED a son to heal me”, before adding, “my only bet is NIPT followed by continuation, only if it’s a boy”. Another said she was considering an abortion and ‘cannot bear the thought of another girl’.
Tan Dhesi, the MP for Slough, said in South Asia, communities had made progress in tackling “this social evil”. He added: “That’s been primarily through legislation, banning gender determination clinics. In the UK I think we need to be doing likewise”.
In 2015, MPs rejected an attempt to explicitly outlaw sex-selective abortions.
Speaking to the BBC, one Sikh woman living in Greater London, explained that she discovered her baby’s sex at five months.
‘Zara’ explained that family members would mourn baby girls, and so she decided to abort.
Now she regrets the decision, but says abortion on the grounds of sex is “very common”.
Labour’s Naz Shah MP called for “appropriate restrictions” on women being told the sex of their baby under the NIPT test.
However, she backed usage of it for screening “serious conditions such as Down’s syndrome”.
Rani Bilkhu, who speaks for the Stop Gendercide campaign, said the law needs to go further.
“We are calling for this ban on tests to be accompanied by the Government introducing a total explicit ban on sex-selective abortion.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman responded to the BBC investigation by saying the primary intended use of NIPT wasn’t to give parents information on sex.
“We will continue to review the evidence”, the spokesman added.