Could Gender Detection Lead to Gender Selection?

Experts fear an early-term sex test may lead parents to selectively abort.

ByABC News
May 4, 2007, 4:40 PM

May 4, 2007 — -- "Pink or Blue?"

While many soon-to-be parents eager to pick out nursery colors may fret over this question in the tense months before their baby is born, a test by the same name offers to provide an answer to the sex question as soon as six weeks into pregnancy.

The company that markets the test says the technology is a cutting-edge convenience for eager couples.

But some bioethicists and genetic counseling experts fear the results of the test could be used as a tool to selectively abort fetuses that are not of the preferred sex.

"This is a huge potential problem," says Dr. William Hurlbut, a consulting professor at the Stanford University Medical Center Neuroscience Institute who has served on the President's Council on Bioethics since 2002.

"Now we're really opening up the door to social prejudice and a frivolous kind of preference."

"There are multiple considerations," says Bonnie LeRoy, director of the graduate program in genetic counseling at the University of Minnesota. "And there are obvious ethical considerations as to whether or not using technology to determine the sex of a baby fits in with the morals of society."

According to DNA Worldwide, the U.K.-based company that holds the rights for the product in that country, the test has been available in the United States since 2006.

Prospective parents need not head to a clinic; the test can be ordered over an Internet site -- The test works by detecting trace amounts of the baby's genes present in the mother's blood. Using the kit, the mother sends a sample of her blood into a lab for testing.

Answers in five business days cost $215.00. For those who need the results within three business days, the cost goes up to $264.00.

But the question in many bioethicists' minds is how the information will be used.

In a statement issued Friday, director of DNA Worldwide David Nicholson said that the aims of the test are benign and have nothing to do with abortion.