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Investigative journalists from Montenegro’s Center for Investigative Journalism (CIN-CG) and Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) recently followed up on a lead indicating a rising number of women from Montenegro looking for genetic testing in private clinics in Serbia, uncovering a troubling trend – more women in Montenegro seem to be terminating pregnancies if genetic testing shows they are carrying female fetuses.
According to Montenegro national broadcaster RTCG, the joint investigative reporting effort has revealed not only an increase in abortions of female fetuses, but also a link between doctors and clinics in Montenegro and Serbia willing to perform these services.
Abortions in both Montenegro and Serbia are legal up to the tenth week of pregnancy. Elective terminations of pregnancy past ten weeks are only legal under certain and rare conditions. The type of genetic testing that is able to determine the gender of the fetus is considered invasive and usually only used if deemed necessary – if there is a valid, medical concern that either the fetus or mother may benefit from the testing. Genetic testing is explicitly banned for simply learning the sex of the fetus.
Selective termination of pregnancy is also allowed past the ten week limit in Montenegro if a medical board decides that there is reason to believe that “the woman will be met with difficult personal or family issues” should she carry the pregnancy to term. What exactly falls under such issues is unclear and the decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.
The journalists’ research and sources, however, say that such genetic testing is routinely performed by certain clinics in Serbia and Montenegro, for the price of €350. Sources also say that many women opting for the genetic testing tend to choose to terminate the pregnancy if the tests show they are carrying a girl.
Both Serbia and Montenegro have laws in place which try to combat this sort of genetic selection. A different, entirely legal test can confirm the gender of the fetus with relative certainty, but only after the 12th week of pregnancy, at which point elective abortions are illegal in both countries. Sources have told CIN-CG and BIRN that certain clinics in Serbia, however, are willing to perform illegal – and sometimes dangerous – elective abortions past the ten week legal limit.
Montenegro is among the top five countries in the world in terms of disparity between births of male and female children – with some 110 boys born to every 100 girls – and the trend seems to be rising, in favor of male children. The world average is some 102 or 103 boys to every 100 girls born.