Doctors banned from disclosing fetus’s sex

“Is it a boy or a girl?” It is a common enough question for expectant parents to ask. However, the answer might be more illusive in Taiwan given the Department of Health’s (DOH) new ban keeping doctors from disclosing the sex of a fetus.

The United Daily News reported that, in light of a severe imbalance in the number of male and female infants, the DOH has issued an order requiring that all medical institutions performing prenatal genetic diagnosis not put down the unborn child’s gender on reports available to the public, nor disclose the sex of a fetus except for medical reasons.

On the DOH’s website, a mother who was disappointed with the ban responded, “Actually I do not have any pressure to bear a boy or a girl, but I just wanted help in buying something for my baby in advance.”

“This is overkill,” said Huang Min-chao, secretary-general of the Taiwan Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology, adding that the DOH should promote this idea if it believes such a practice is likely to lessen the imbalance between male and female infants. However, Huang believes it is unfair to impose the responsibility on the physicians, thereby “creating tension between doctors and expectant women.”

Due to China’s one-child policy combined with the Chinese tradition of favoring male descendants who can carry on the ancestral name, there are 18 million more men in the 20 to 45 age group than women of same age. The DOH explained that this regulation is the result of the imbalance in the number of domestic male and female infants. Under natural conditions, the ratio of male to female infants should be about 1:1.05 or 1:1.06. But in 2010 it was 1:1.09 and in 2009 1:1.08, giving Taiwan the ninth highest imbalance of male and female infants in the world, only behind countries like Vietnam, China and India. This escalating imbalance has caused the DOH to be criticized by the Control Yuan.

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