The Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday that it is considering prohibiting pregnant women from taking a DNA test that is normally used to detect genetic abnormalities, but which is used in some clinics to determine the gender of the unborn child.
Bureau of Health Promotion Director-General Chiou Shu-ti (邱淑媞) said on her Facebook page that she supports banning pregnant women from getting polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis to address the country’s highly skewed gender ratio at birth.
A conclusion was reached at a DOH internal meeting yesterday, during which it was agreed that the use of PCR to determine the gender of fetuses should be banned, Chiou said.
PCR is used for medical reasons such as screening for genetic diseases that run in families. However, many local clinics use the test to allow pregnant women to find out the gender of their babies as early as six to eight weeks into the pregnancy, giving rise to increased chances of selective abortions due to a preference for male offspring.
The DOH set up a team in 2010 to study the newborn sex ratio. The team established a system to receive reports from medical facilities and obstetricians on new births. It then analyzes the data and initiates investigations of the facility if the ratio it reports is “clearly abnormal.”
The joint efforts of various parties has brought the ratio of males to females at birth down from 1.090 in 2010 to 1.074 last year, though this is still higher than the natural 1.06 ratio, the bureau said
Data compiled by the DOH showed the nation’s ratio of males to females at birth as of the end of last month was 1.08.