Council of Europe Suggests Keeping Baby's Gender Secret to Prevent Selective Abortion

Society » HEALTH | September 12, 2011, Monday // 12:37| Views: | Comments: 0
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Bulgaria: Council of Europe Suggests Keeping Baby's Gender Secret to Prevent Selective Abortion The Council of Europe's Equal Opportunities Committee has suggested keeping the baby's gender secret with a view to preventing selective abortions. Photo by BGNES

The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, made up of MPs from the 47 member states of the human rights body, including Bulgaria, have suggested barring parents from knowing the sex of their unborn baby.

According to a draft resolution passed by the Equal Opportunities Committee, as cited by the Sunday Telegraph, medical staff should be instructed to "withhold information about the sex of the foetus".

The aim is to clamp down on sex-selective abortions, usually of female foetuses, which are gaining popularity at an alarming rate in some member states, especially in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Albania.

The 12 week scan can usually identify the sex of the foetus.

In most cases, the more detailed scan undertaken at the 20 week stage makes it clear if the baby is a boy or a girl.

The draft resolution is to be discussed and voted upon in October.

The Strasbourg-based Council of Europe cannot impose binding orders on governments but is highly influential in decision-making on a national level.

The recommendation that all public hospitals the 47 member states should not inform parents about the gender of their unborn child has triggered criticism.

"I have never heard of Bulgarian parents opting for abortion rather than having a baby girl. This would be absurd", said Dr Ivan Kostov, head of the Sofia-based "Sheinovo" maternity hospital, insisting that Bulgarians did not have that sort of mentality.

According to Kostov, as cited by Bulgarian daily 24 Hours, parents refused to learn the gender of the foetus if they wanted to keep it a surprise.

Prenatal screening, an important breakthrough in modern medicine, was among parents' rights, the doctor argued.

As regards reception in the UK, Dr Gillian Lockwood, a former vice-chair of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists' ethics committee, said that the council's advice would not root out selective abortions because the majority of the parents learned the baby's gender at 20 weeks, when it was impossible to secure a termination without medical grounds.

In her words, the recommendations were also difficult to implement because in many cases the parents were able to work out the gender for themselves while looking at the scans.

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