A test that can be taken at home to determine the gender of a fetus in the early stages of pregnancy is sparking a debate over whether it will foster sex-specific abortions.
The 10-minute test can be taken just eight weeks after a woman becomes pregnant. In contrast, ultrasound exams can’t determine gender until well into the second trimester, usually at 18 weeks.
The U.S. company IntelliGender makes the test, which has been available in the United States since 2006, was launched in Australia last month, and soon will be available in New Zealand.
A woman using the test combines her urine with chemicals that then identify elements found in the hormones of a woman pregnant with a girl, according to instructions on the test kits.
If the urine turns green or black, the fetus is male; if it is orange or yellow, the baby is female.
New Zealand anti-abortion group Voice for Life is concerned that people who use the test, which costs about $100, then might terminate pregnancies on the grounds of sex selection, RedOrbit.com reports.
Sex selection terminations are not allowed in New Zealand, although they are acceptable if a woman were determined to be mentally unbalanced. However, gender-based abortion is common in Asia, particularly to select for sons, and Swedish health authorities ruled last month that gender-based abortion can't be stopped because it is not illegal.
Termination for sex selection is a huge issue overseas that is causing concern for both pro-life and medical groups, the New Zealand Herald quoted Voice for Life spokesman Bernard Moran as saying.
The test would only spur abortion fears in New Zealand over what people will do after finding out the gender of their baby, Moran said.
"Certain ethnic minorities here might be more prone to use it," Moran told the Herald.
Medical groups echo the worries.
“The concern we would have is that people would then terminate pregnancies on the grounds of sex selection,” Dr. Ted Weaver, president of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told LifeSiteNews.com.
The tests technically are not pregnancy tests, so they do not need state authorization under the Medicines Act, the Health Ministry's Medsafe unit ruled.
The idea appalls some, including Australian Christian Lobby managing director Jim Wallace, who told LifeSiteNews.com, “That we would allow a product that would allow eugenics to be practiced and started in the home is just unbelievable.”
David Portnoy, managing director of Melbourne-based Early Image, told the Herald the test has a laboratory accuracy of 90 percent and real-world accuracy of 82 percent, but IntelliGender will not publicize such data because patents are pending.
“I would be amazed if anybody was to do anything so drastic based on a urine test that has a 90 per cent accuracy rate," Portnoy said.
On its Web site, IntelliGender claims the test is designed “as a fun, positive pre-birth experience for the parents-to-be,” and does not recommend users make “any financial, emotional or family planning decisions based on the test results."
But Weaver, an outspoken opponent of the controversial test, said: "We're all about women having choices, but we want the choices to be valid."
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