Hospitals could be forbidden from telling expectant mothers the sex of their unborn babies, following a ruling in Europe. Medical workers should be instructed to “withhold information about the foetus” according to a draft resolution by the Council of Europe committee. The measure aims to discourage parents from “selectively aborting” foetuses (usually female) as a way of “choosing” the sex of their child. Parenting groups expressed concern about the change, and doctors said the proposals were impracticable. Selective abortions have become strikingly common in some former Soviet states that are members of the Council – in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Albania, the ratio is 112 boys for 100 girls.
The draft resolution calls for an investigation of the causes for skewed birth ratios in these countries. It says prenatal sex selection should only be permitted in order to evade serious hereditary diseases which are specific to one sex. While directed at these countries in particular, the recommendation includes all 47 states of the Council.
Dr Gillian Lockwood, of Midland Fertility Services, told The London Telegraph that it would be difficult for hospitals to heed the advice, because parents can determine the sex of the child for themselves by looking at the scans. She said that most parents she had seen were not desperate to have a child of a particular sex. Rather, she said most wanted to know so they could paint their nursery, buy appropriate clothes, or tell other children they have a brother or sister.
Justine Roberts of parenting website Mumsnet said expectant couples would be “pretty angry and disappointed” if a ban on all gender identification is enacted. Mrs Roberts said expectant parents seek to know the sex of their children for practical reasons, such as finding out whether they can share a room. She said: “I can understand that there may be problems in some parts of the world with sex selection, but it seems ridiculous to apply the thinking to countries where this has not been shown to be a problem.”
A UK Department of Health spokesman said decisions on whether or not to disclose information on the sex of a child should be “based on the clinical judgment of the certainty of the test and the individual circumstances of each case.” ~ London Telegraph, Sep 11