Deckchairs on the Titanic

So, those wise people who wish to rule us in Europe have decreed that “medical staff should withhold information about the sex of the foetus“, because the practice of sex-selective abortions have reached worrying proportions in former soviet states. Yet another reason demonstrating why the EU in its correct format is such a phenomenally bad idea. The countries that constitute the European Union are so culturally disparate it is absolutely impossible to form generic rules for all 27 member countries.

I’m pro-life – why aren’t I supporting anything that may have a positive effect in terms of reducing abortions?

There is no evidence to suggest that this measure would have a demonstrable effect on the abortion rate. Similar laws have been effected in India since 1996 to little avail. Countries such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Albania and Georgia have reputations for corruption and thus it is likely that these laws would either be ignored, the penalties for breaking them would prove insufficient as a deterrent and parents with enough of a vested financial interest in the sex of their unborn child would not be averse to slipping the sonographer a few extra lek. It would be unenforceable, although no doubt countries such as the UK, where the practice of sex selective abortion would appear to be thankfully rare would obey to the letter, with swingeing fines imposed by Brussels at the first hint of any inadvertent violations.

I have to confess to being ambivalent about ante-natal screening. It was only during my first pregnancy that the reality of it really hit home. Far from being the opportunity to see my baby there on screen and find out what sex she was, I lay there alone during the 20 week scan with the monographer saying “if I go quiet, it doesn’t necessarily mean that anything is wrong, it’s just I need to concentrate”. At that particular scan she was training a student, thus single measurement and test was described with a level of painstaking detailed medical accuracy, which I have not experience since. It hadn’t occurred to me quite what they were checking for (I was in a state of denial generally and thought that the scan might help me with coming to terms with the baby, particularly if I could find out the gender). When I heard statements such as “you need to look for and count the four chambers of the heart filling up and emptying, there’s the tibia, that looks fully formed and intact, check the kidney function and the jaw and palate seem to be intact, there’s a continuous plate”, I suddenly realised with chilling accuracy what they were looking for and why the scan was taking place.

In my subsequent pregnancies I have been extremely reluctant to attend the scan, as to do so seems to endorse the NHS objective of choice. One of the major reasons for ante-natal screenings is to give the parents the option of abortion should the child be seen to have a major disability. I know that I would never abort an unborn child, so in many ways it seems something of a pointless exercise and not one that I wish to endorse. I don’t think that I would ever choose to have the nuchal fold screening for Down’s Syndrome again, even though I have with all of my three children. My rationale has always been, that if it were to be discovered that my child had Downs, I would want to do lots of reading and to be fully prepared. The only test that will definitively tell you whether or not your child will have a chromosomal abnormality is a Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis which both carry risks of miscarriage. Given that I wouldn’t want to do anything which may incur a miscarriage, I wouldn’t therefore opt for these tests, if the nuchal fold screening came out with a high risk result. All the nuchal fold test will do, is give you an accurate risk factor, which will then encourage you to spend the rest of your pregnancy worrying or alternatively opt for a test which does not come without its fair share of anxiety.

Ante-natal screening should not be condemned as a bad or something to be discouraged however, foetal medicine is making leaps and bounds and many babies’ lives have been saved as a result of ante-natal diagnostic tests. Information in itself can never be bad, it is only what people choose to do with it.

This is why I have such an objection to this proposal, it is truly illiberal in nature as it wishes to withhold information from the responsible majority in a misconceived attempt to legislate for the minority. Though there are many who prefer not to find out the sex of their baby in advance, liking the element of surprise (to me the surprise of the baby is enough) there are many others who benefit from this information. I am one of those as is my husband. We were always dying to know the sex of our unborn child, not least so I knew whether or not I needed to retain my stash of baby girl clothes or had the excuse was required to go shopping. It helped in terms of choosing names, itself a labour of Hercules, but crucially it helped us to get to know our babies, to bond with them and to help accustom the other children to the idea of a baby brother or sister. Of course sonographers are not infallible and do get these things wrong, but all of ours have been unequivocal, “there’s no boys’ bits which can only mean one thing”. Apparently the identification of a girl is known as the McDonald’s syndrome, the female sex organs look something like a hamburger when viewed on screen.

If one applies the test of harm, then of course, no harm would have come to us had we not been told the sex, we would have undoubtedly loved and accepted our babies regardless, but it was helpful, not least in terms of helping my husband to bond with his unborn children, because men are physically excluded from the experience of pregnancy and yet they still need to provide support. Finding out the sex of our unborn children was an extra little added bonus.

If this legislation were to be enacted, it would cause severe difficulty for private clinics who provide private 3D imaging services for parents wishing to have a video of their unborn chid in utero, many of whom will offer a gender diagnosis. It won’t impact our abortion rates which are already the highest in Europe, but will simply be the Eurocrats telling me that I cannot be trusted to know the gender of my unborn child. Of more concern is the diagnostic blood test for gender available over the internet at 7 weeks, but if we don’t want people to abort on the basis of gender, then there is a simple solution. This is the inevitable consequence of abortion as a choice. Logically why is it morally acceptable to choose to abort on the basis of lifestyle, but not on the basis of gender?

Abortion is a tragedy, regardless of the reason it is carried out. A child aborted due to its gender is no more tragic than a child aborted due to the fact that it is less than physically perfect. Whilst the EU threatens Hungary with financial penalties for promoting adoption instead of abortion, then it has absolutely no moral authority to prevent parents from finding out the sex of their unborn, if that is their choice.

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