Mon, Jul 01, 2013 - Page 3 News List

DOH mulls infant gender-selection curbs for sex ratio

TESTY SUBJECT:Taiwan’s skewed boy-girl ratio of newborns is a serious issue, the health agency said, after drawing fire for its gender balance policies

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

In an attempt to curb the practice of gender selection among parents-to-be, the Department of Health (DOH) is mulling imposing a ban on the use of a maternal serum screening test to identify whether a pregnant woman is at risk of having a baby with genetic disorders linked to gender.

The move follows the Bureau of Health Promotion’s decision to call in an obstetrician for questioning after he delivered more boys than girls.

The bureau’s actions drew strong opposition from the obstetrician and other medical staff who have also been questioned for having delivered unbalanced boy-girl ratios and the interview was later “postponed.”

The health department and the bureau, although denying that they had implied that the doctor had illicitly helped parents select the sex of their children, maintained that the gender imbalance among newborns is alarming and needs to be taken seriously, which may require the government to implement nationwide policies.

An interagency meeting convened in the wake of a recent debate on gender selection policy concluded that future monitoring of prenatal gender selection practices will emphasize management of the sources of sex information, and strengthen inspections of screening equipment and test kits, the health department said.

Using the maternal serum screening test for infant gender selection is already prohibited and widening it to encompass testing for potential gender-linked genetic disorders could help stop illicit gender selection, it said.

The department made a point of clarifying that the proposed extension to the ban does not include maternal serum screening for determining the risk of Down syndrome, as the syndrome is related to trisomy 21 — having three copies of chromosome 21 instead of the usual two — instead of being caused by gender-related genes, or the X and Y chromosomes that determine the sex of a fetus.

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