Blood tests can be used to determine the sex of a child as early as seven weeks into a pregnancy, researchers recently discovered.
By drawing the mother's blood, doctors can observe fetal DNA and predict a child's sex less than two months into pregnancy with a 95 percent accuracy. The findings may put an end to invasive gender determining tests, such as chorionic villus sampling and amniocentesis, which can be dangerous for the mother and fetus.
but aren't always possible. The new tests work by looking at the chromosomes in the mothers blood, specifically the presence of cell-free circulating Y-chromosome DNA sequences. Sonograms can be done as early as 13 weeks into a pregnancy,
As important a breakthrough as this is, one MSNBC commentator is calling the discovery a "troubling technology." Dr. Arthur Caplan wrote on Tuesday that he believes early fetal testing is the first step toward the sexual selection practices in China and India that make spectacular news stories. Caplan, who has a Ph.D and is not an M.D., believes that allowing parents to know a child's sex in the first trimester will lead to widespread abortions.
"Ending a pregnancy because you don’t want a girl may be legal in the U.S., but that does not make it an ethical choice. As hard as it may be for some people to comprehend, there can be good and bad reasons to end a pregnancy. Gender preference is a bad reason," he said.
Caplan is the director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania. He believes that early gender determination kits will soon be available to women through the mail or from an online ad, and they will then be able to take an abortion pill if their fetus is female.
However, aside from just looking at gender, the blood test will also help with the early detection of sex-chromosome-linked genetic disorders. The most accurate blood test results were found at around the 20 week mark.
If these tests can eventually limit the number of invasive tests -- tests which in many cases risk the life of the fetus -- and can help families cope with disease, then they are more than worth whatever bleak future Dr. Caplan believes in. There is no reason to prevent blood testing for fear of sexual selection abortions, and as the head of bioethics, Caplan should know better than to prevent progress.