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NZMA Advises Doctors Against Early Sex Tests

Release New Zealand Medical Association

The New Zealand Medical Association is advising doctors not to carry out sex determination tests on pregnant women if the information may be used to abort an unwanted foetus, usually a female.

"This practice is commonly carried out in several overseas countries, particularly India, China and Russia, where girl babies are less valued than boys," said NZMA Chairman Dr Pippa MacKay. "Doctors should be aware that this is now being sought in New Zealand."

The Family Planning Association yesterday alerted the NZMA to the practice of couples seeking the sex determination tests in New Zealand. The issue was discussed at a meeting of the NZMA-sponsored National Policy Council, and was referred to the NZMA Ethics Committee for a policy to be formulated.

Some older pregnant women or those with a family history of hereditary problems can undergo a procedure called chorionic villus sampling, which is used to check foetuses for chromosomal abnormalities. It can also identify the sex of the foetus.

"If women want this procedure carried out purely to identify the sex of the foetus, with a view to having an abortion if they are carrying a girl, then we strongly advise doctors not to refer the woman for the test, or to carry out the test," Dr MacKay said.

In India there has been a steady decline in the ratio of females to males over the last century because of similar practices. The 1991 census found 927 females for every 1000 males. In some Indian states there are as few as 600 females for every 1000 males.

The Indian Medical Association has declared that no medical practitioners should involve themselves in sex determination tests, which have been illegal since 1994 but are still widespread.

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