A maternity clinic in Nagano Prefecture was found Monday to have carried out 36 abortions of selected abnormal fetuses in women who had multiple fetuses, mostly conceived after fertility treatment.
They are the first known selective abortions in a country where more than 1,000 fetal reduction operations have been carried out for lifestyle or medical reasons.
Suwa Maternity Clinic in the town of Shimosuwa said 31 of the 36 cases were associated with in vitro fertilization and other infertility treatments.
Of the 36, 25 were conducted because of Down syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities and 11 over fetal hydrops and other diseases, the clinic said.
The clinic said the procedures were performed to save the lives of at least one fetus per woman as the couples insisted they would abort all of them unless they could undergo fetal reduction.
All were carried out after the 12th week of pregnancy, the clinic said.
The clinic will report on the operations at a meeting of the Japan Society of Fertilization and Implantation when it opens in Beppu, Oita Prefecture, on Thursday.