Sex selection and non-invasive prenatal testing: A review of current practices, evidence, and ethical issues.
Bowman-Smart H., Savulescu J., Gyngell C., Mand C., Delatycki MB.
Non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) can determine the sex of the fetus very accurately and very early in gestation. There are concerns that the ease, timing, and accuracy of NIPT sex determination will facilitate sex-selective termination of pregnancy (TOP). Here, we review current practices, the evidence for a link between NIPT and sex-selective TOP, and associated ethical issues. Sex-selective TOP, usually motivated by son preference, has had serious demographic consequences in countries such as India and China. Currently, ultrasound is the primary method by which parents determine the sex of the fetus. The diffusion of ultrasound technology has had a direct impact on the rates of sex-selective TOP. Although NIPT is currently more costly, it is feasible that increased uptake of this technology could have a similar effect. Partly because NIPT is a relatively recent development in prenatal screening, there is little data on the impact of NIPT on sex selection practices. Evidence that NIPT is playing a role in sex-selective TOP remains largely anecdotal. Further research is required to assess and quantify TOP resulting from NIPT sex determination. The use of these technologies for sex selection raises a number of ethical issues, in addition to practical demographic consequences.