It may also have much to do with tackling gender imbalance, which remains a major public health issue in China; social preferences for sons combined with the legacy of the one-child policy (despite recent relaxation) has already resulted in effective sex selection and a shortage of girls and young women. Unrestricted access to prenatal genetic testing could further exacerbate this problem, so the new restriction of clinical gene sequencing applications to pilots approved by the National Health and Planning Commission (the Chinese population control authority) may be highly significant.
Objections to the ban are reportedly already being raised, with fears that the rate of birth defects will rise sharply without access to prenatal testing. However, it would be perfectly possible for the authorities to permit testing for Down’s syndrome and other medical indications via approved providers. It remains to be seen what the purpose and impact of the new regulatory regime will be.