The National Health and Medical Research Council is considering changing the rules in Australia on gender selection.
“We just really wanted a daughter and I had no ethical problems with it”
“I’ve been criticised for “playing God”, messing with nature and being superficial. I know that, to a childless woman struggling with infertility, I might seem ungrateful because I already have three healthy sons. But unless you’ve experienced “gender disappointment”, you can’t understand how crippling it can be.”
“I understand some people who can’t have their own children would be thinking, ‘you are lucky and you have three beautiful, healthy sons’. And that is true. But it is not about everyone else, it is about me and my husband and our choice, and women like me.”
These are just some of the views of Australian families who have undergone gender selection.
The controversial process whereby parents pick the sex of their baby through IVF.
Boy or girl? It’s up to you.
The process – currently illegal in Australia – has seen families fork out up to $50,000 to get those desired booties by travelling overseas – in most cases it seems pink is the fashionable shade.
But travelling to the US or Thailand to purchase your selected sex may be a thing of the past with the National Health and Medical Research Council considering changing the rules in Australia.
The MHMC has opened its consultation draft to public comment and is looking primarily for feedback on sex selection for non-medical purposes – along with the idea of compensating women for donating their eggs and the establishment of an Australian egg donor bank.
In Australia it is already possible for those families with a risk of genetic abnormalities to choose the sex of their babies.
The NHMRC’s Australian Health Ethics Committee chair Ian Olver said it was time to question whether it should be allowed for non-medical reasons such as family balancing.
The NHMRC found the debate “would be enhanced through the exploration of some of the complex ethical and social issues raised by non-medical sex selection, through the use of illustrative case studies”.
Case studies such as family balancing, the replacement of a child, whether they want the same sex or a different sex; or other borderline medical reasons, such as where a couple has a boy with autism and believes there would be less chance of their second child having autism if it was a girl.
Monash University professor and fertility specialist Gab Kovacs told Fairfax Media he couldn’t see what harm it could do – saying most patients he saw who wanted the process had only boys and wanted a girl.
“It’s not something that should be encouraged, but I think if someone’s prepared to do it and they’re prepared to pay for it, I don’t see what harm it would do to the community,” Professor Kovacs said.
Michael Sandel, a Harvard University professor told CNN that the reason for the ban on selecting gender for lifestyle reasons is because of a concern about creating a gender imbalance.
“In China now, there are 117 boys for every 100 girls. In parts of northern India, it’s 140 boys for every 100 girls.”
Some European countries and Canada hold a similar view about creating a gender imbalance – but in the US gender selection is readily available.