British Columbia

Gender-determining ultrasounds 'should be stopped'

There are growing calls for a complete ban on the use of ultrasound examinations to determine the gender of fetuses in early pregnancy.

More doctors call for end to ultrasounds used to determine fetus gender

There are growing calls for a complete ban on the use of ultrasound examinations to determine the gender of fetuses.

A CBC News investigation published Tuesday revealed private ultrasound clinics in B.C. are part of an apparent national trend among some cultures to determine if a fetus is female during the early period of a pregnancy — when abortion is still an option.

CBC News used hidden cameras in visits to clinics across Canada and found that 15 of the 22 facilities visited were willing to perform so-called "entertainment ultrasounds" to disclose the sex of a fetus during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

"I'm very, very upset about this happening in a country like Canada," said Dr. Pargat Singh Bhurji, a Surrey, B.C., pediatrician.

Bhurji said parents are using the ultrasounds and aborting if it's a girl, because males carry the family name and females need an expensive dowry.

"The technology of ultrasound is very good to detect if there are any health issues, but it’s being abused to check for fetal sex, leading to the unnecessary practice of female feticide."

Abbotsford, B.C., which has one of the largest Indo-Canadian communities in Canada, also has one of the country’s most skewed gender ratios.

Dr. Pargat Singh Bhurji says early-pregnancy ultrasounds are being abused and can promote 'female feticide.'

Statistics Canada figures show that among children under 15, there are 121 boys for every 100 girls.

"I think the practice has to be stopped immediately," said Bhurji.

Obstetricians' society agrees

The Society of Obstetricians of Canada agrees.

"I would actually suggest a complete ban, which is perhaps even more, even more dramatic," said society spokesman, Dr. Michiel Van den Hoff.

CBC News has learned that the B.C. government has sent a directive to publicly-funded ultrasound clinics, telling technicians not to release any gender information to the patient.

They are told to get the details of the test results from their referring physician.

Although the new policy does not apply to private ultrasound clinics, B.C. Health Minister Mike de Jong said that might have to change, given the results of the CBC News investigation.

"I was troubled by what I learned," de Jong said Wednesday. "What I want to know is, what the options are for insuring that there are a set of guidelines that do apply to those [private] facilities."

With files from the CBC's Eric Rankin