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British Pregnancy Advisory Service statement on Nuffield Council on Bioethics report: Non-invasive prenatal testing: ethical issues

"This is a disappointing report, which seems permeated by a mistrust of women and the reproductive choices they make. bpas is an organisation that sees tens of thousands of women every year for advice about abortion, including women who have received a diagnosis of a foetal abnormality. We know how seriously women take decisions about the future of their pregnancies, yet their voices seem curiously absent from this report. bpas believes strongly that women are capable of making good, ethical decisions about their pregnancies, and as the person who must bear the consequences of that pregnancy, must be trusted to do so.

"The report calls for a ban on women being allowed to use NIPT to discover the sex of their foetus, on the grounds that this may increase the risk of sex-selective abortion. We do not believe this is an ethical approach. We should be absolutely clear that there is no peer-reviewed evidence of sex-selective abortion taking place in the UK, and statistics from the Department of Health do not show unusual gender imbalance in any ethnic community in this country. Where any woman is under pressure to produce a male child, the ethical answer is not to deny every pregnant woman the right to find out information about her own pregnancy, but to do our utmost to ensure gender equality and access to comprehensive women’s support services so that women can make their own choice about their pregnancy free from coercion.

"The report also suggests that the quality of specialist health and social care received by people with a condition likes Down’s Syndrome may deteriorate if fewer people are born as a result of an increase in abortions, and that those with these conditions may feel that negative and hurtful messages are being sent about them, making themselves and their families more vulnerable to discrimination. There is no evidence that allowing women reproductive choice compromises the value accorded to and the care of disabled people, and we should note that the strides which have been made towards the rightful equality of disabled people have occurred at the same time as women’s rights, underpinned by reproductive choice, have also advanced. Women who end a pregnancy after a diagnosis of a syndrome such as Down’s are not making a statement about the value of disabled people, but an intensely personal decision about what is right and possible within the context of their lives and existing families. It is incumbent on all of us to ensure the frameworks and services are in place so that disabled people can achieve the equality and social justice they deserve, at the same time as we grant women access to the information they need to make their own decisions about their own pregnancies."

Click here to read the Department of Health's report on gender ratios at birth in Great Britain. 


For more information please contact the bpas press office on 0207 061 3377, 07788 725185 or press@bpas.org 

Notes to Editors:

About bpas

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, bpas, is a charity which sees more than 70,000 women a year and provides reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception, at clinics across the UK. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice. More information can be found at www.bpas.org