Officials are raising the alarm over a shocking number of parents using gender tests to determine whether they should get an abortion, which has resulted in a declining female birth rate.

The issue came to light after people noticed the surge in demand for Non-Invasive Prenatal Tests (NIPT) in UK’s private sector clinics.

Additionally, ethics committee member Tom Shakespeare has linked the private sector tests to sex-selective abortions.

“We strongly believe there should be a ban on [NIPT’s] use to find out the sex of the fetus, as this could lead to sex-selective abortions,” said Shakespeare, according to the Daily Mail.

And in a statement to BBC, Shakespeare said “the desire for sex-selection is a major driver of private-sector testing.”

Asian, Middle Eastern and Indian cultures that prioritize male children have been noted as the driving force for UK’s private clinic demand of the gender test.

“… Countries like China and India have recognized the problem of sex-selective abortion and so it’s very difficult to get this information – in India it is illegal,” said Shakespeare. “So if we allow it, people will come here as tourists.”

Demand is so high that brazen roadside posters offering the sex-determining test have been seen in large towns such as Slough, England.

“This poster is really telling the community, ‘Come here, come to us and we’ll let you know whether you’re having a boy or a girl,'” says Rani Bilkhu, a member of an International women’s rights organization.

The cultural pressure to have a son is so great that mothers have suffered violence and even coercion into abortions, according to the BBC.

“No wonder they’re resorting to sex-selection abortion because they’ve got no choice,” said Bilkhu. “They don’t want to be homeless, they don’t want their marriage to fail – all because they couldn’t give birth to a boy.”

Additionally, the hard sell private clinics have over UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is that they provide the gender of the baby as early as nine or ten weeks while NHS does not reveal it until around 18-20 weeks.

The deciding factor given earlier in the pregnancy makes the abortion decision “easier,” says Shakespeare.

“Very few people will decide to have an abortion at [a later] stage of the pregnancy,” said Shakespeare. “But at 10 weeks an abortion is much easier.”

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