Edinburgh, Scotland, Feb 5, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Some hospitals in Scotland have stopped telling expectant parents the sex of their unborn baby due to fears of legal action in cases of mistakes, the potential to encourage sex-selective abortion, and hostility to hospital staff from parents.
Four of the 14 National Health Service boards in Scotland, which may set their own practices, do not reveal the unborn baby’s sex, the Scottish newspaper The Sunday Post reports. These include NHS Forth Valley sonographers, as well as those at hospitals in Orkney and Shetland.
The differences among localities were noted by Annie Wells, a Minister of the Scottish Parliament and Conservative Party spokeswoman for Mental Health, Public Health and Equalities, who said that “parents will be confused at this apparent postcode lottery.”
There are fears that some parents may abort unborn babies based on the result of the sonography, which have led to some refusals to tell the baby’s sex. Parents who were told the wrong sex of their baby have threatened legal action, as well.
Some hospital staff sonographers faced “verbal abuse” from parents when they were unable to determine the sex of the baby, leading to NHS Grampian board to halt the service in its region, which includes Aberdeen. Its hospital waiting rooms advise patients of this fact. It is changing policy documents to say “gender is not determined” unless the baby has a medical condition identified in the womb.
Elizabeth Duff, senior policy adviser to the National Childbirth Trust charity, said that many parents seek to know their baby’s sex.
“It’s exciting, enables them to plan and can help with bonding,” Duff told the Sunday Post. “However, due to many factors such as the clarity of the images and position of the baby, the sonographer cannot guarantee they will accurately identify the baby’s gender.”
The changes mean that some parents are having private sonography scans done to identify the baby’s sex.
“There were threats of legal action if we got it wrong,” a midwife, who asked not to be named, told The Sunday Post. “And some women no longer nurtured the pregnancy if they were told it was a girl.”
“Mistakes happen,” said another midwife, speaking anonymously. “I had a case where a couple were told they were having a wee girl and everything they had was pink, the nursery was decorated pink, and then they had a boy.”
Last year British politicians concerned that prenatal tests are leading to sex-selective abortions called for a review of the availability of early sex detection tests for pregnant women.
They expressed particular concern that women, especially those in the U.K.’s Asian communities, are being pressured or coerced into having an abortion if they are pregnant with a girl.
In March 2017 the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, a government-funded think tank, published a report saying that the use of the Non-Invasive Prenatal Test appeared to increase sex-selective abortions.
The blood test is given to the mother at the ninth week of pregnancy, at which time the baby’s DNA is detectable in a pregnant mother’s bloodstream.
Sex-selective abortion can be a statistically detectable practice in communities with a preference for a male child or against a female child. Some countries where the practice is common have banned prenatal sex detection. India outlawed it in 1994.
Tests to identify an unborn baby’s sex are privately available to parents and can be purchased at a clinic for about £150 to £200, approximately $195 to $260.
In the London suburb of Slough, which has a substantial population of South Asian descent, roadside advertisements explicitly market the test for its ability to determine the sex of the child.
Some politicians have called for such ads to be banned.
While sex-selection abortion is technically illegal in the U.K., women may give other reasons to justify an abortion in England, Scotland and Wales. An abortion request must have approval from two doctors and usually cannot be performed later than 24 weeks into pregnancy.
The prenatal blood test is currently administered by the U.K.’s National Health Service to screen for genetic conditions, such as Down syndrome. Ninety percent of children with a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome are aborted.