Britain’s Labour Party is calling for a ban on expectant mothers being told the sex of their baby in early blood tests due to fears it may lead to girls being aborted.
Naz Shah, the party’s spokeswoman for women and equalities, said it was “absolutely wrong” that women were pressurised to have abortions if the baby was expected to be a girl.
Shah said some women were using the Non-Invasive Prenatal Test (NIPT) to determine the sex of their baby and then abort it based on the result.
The NIPT test involves taking a sample of blood from the mother during the early stages of pregnancy to look for the baby’s DNA, which is then analysed to gauge the risk of genetic conditions such as Down’s syndrome. However, the test can also determine the sex of the baby, leading to fears that women from some cultural communities will be pressurised into an abortion if the baby is female.
Although doctors on the National Health Service will not use the test to tell parents the sex of their child, private clinics can share the information for a fee.
“NIPT screenings should be used for their intended purpose, to screen for serious conditions such as Down’s syndrome,” Ms Shah said.
“The government needs to look into this exploitative practice and enforce appropriate restrictions.”
The call represents a significant shift in policy for the Labour Party. In February 2015, the vast majority of Labour MPs voted against an explicit ban on sex-selective abortion, leading to the proposal being defeated.
Senior MPs, including Shah, have also backed calls for abortion on demand for any reason up to birth.
Campaign group CARE welcomed Monday’s announcement. “It might be three years too late, but it’s still good to see the party shifting its position in this positive way,” chief executive Nola Leach said.
“It is also good to see the Labour party acknowledging the humanity of the unborn baby by admitting that the child is gendered from conception.
“That being said, there are still serious questions about the use of the non-invasive screening test and especially the way it all too often leads to babies with disabilities, including downs syndrome being aborted.
“We might have made great progress in society in terms of how we treat those with disabilities but it is utterly wrong that so many babies with Down’s syndrome end up being terminated.”