Jan 23, 2015 04:36 PM

Gov't Orders End to Sending Blood Samples Abroad for Fetus Sex Checks

(Beijing) – Central government health officials have ordered a crackdown on taking blood samples of expecting mothers out of the country to determine the sex of the child she is carrying, as new data shows China continues to have far more boys than girls.

The National Health and Family Planning Commission posted a notice on its website on January 21 requiring 14 government departments, including public security, customs and commerce agencies, to cooperate in the campaign.

Authorities were told to crack down on advertising gender identification services on the Internet, prevent the taking of blood samples out of the country, and punish the businesses and individuals involved in the activity.

Illegal medical organizations and individuals have been taking pregnant women's blood samples abroad to identify the fetus genders in recent years, the health commission said, and this was hurting efforts to address the country's gender imbalance.

Many of these businesses take mother's blood samples into Hong Kong to determine the sex of unborn babies. Customs officials stopped several people from taking blood samples across the border last year, domestic media reports say.

Official statistics show 115.88 boys were born in the country last year for every 100 girls, and China had 33 million more males than females.

China has the greatest gender imbalance in the world, the health commission said, adding that only 18 countries and regions had sex ratios higher than 107. The United Nations says the norm around the world is 102 to 107.

The 2010 census found the sex ratio had exceeded 107 since 1982 and peaked in 2004 at 121.2.

The government implemented a policy limiting most families to one child in 1979 due to concerns the population was growing too fast. With some changes, that policy remains in place today, and helps contribute to the gender imbalance because Chinese families have long favored having a son. Some couples would go so far as to have hospitals determine the sex of a fetus, and if it was a female get an abortion.

That practice was banned in 2002, and medical workers were ordered not to tell expecting mothers the sex of their child, but that rule is often skirted with winks and nods.

The gender imbalance is greatest in the country's rural areas, a document published by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 2006 said.

The imbalance has led to "bachelor villages" in rural areas – places where men cannot find wives – and a rise in seeking brides from neighboring countries, such as Vietnam and Cambodia. This has resulted in a worsening human-trafficking problem in recent years.

(Rewritten by Guo Kai)

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