pregnancy

New laws are proposing to let parents choose their baby's sex. And it's the right thing for families.

They’ve got four boys and desperately want a girl. Another couple has three girls, and the parents desperately want a boy.

One couple has six boys – two of them twins – and they can’t decide whether to try again.

It’s not that they don’t love their boys.

Far from it.

Couples with children of one dominant gender have been forced to travel overseas for the procedure. Image via iStock.

It’s just that they want the experience of raising a girl, an experience so far denied to them.

What is undoubtedly frustrating for the families is that, should they be able to afford it, the potential to have the baby of their desired gender is there, it's just that, so far in Australia, a panel of medical experts and ethicists have denied them the right to their long desired daughter.

But that might be about to change.

In news announced today, laws to allow parents to choose the gender of their baby to balance the sexes in their family may be introduced after a review by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

In Australia it is already possible for families with a risk of genetic abnormalities to choose the sex of their babies, but other couples have been forced to travel to countries where pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is available.

Some say:  “Be happy with what you’ve got”. Image via iStock.

It’s an emotional debate.

One that ends up tangled in arguments about designer babies and religion.

One that inevitably involves a heartbroken, infertile couple desperate for a child of their own crying out: “Be happy with what you’ve got”.

One that involves a glimpse into a future of science that has such potential it's hard to fathom.

But inevitable boils down to this: Why the hell shouldn’t parents be able to choose the gender of their baby?

What business is it to the rest of us?

It is a hot topic in the media. Post continues after video. 

The key factor in the proposal put forward is that families will not be able to choose a baby’s gender simply for “cultural or racial reasons”. Instead, the option will be used to balance families already stacked with one sex.

Ian Olver, the chairman of the panel, said the new rules would not let parents use IVF to choose the gender of their first child, but instead would follow an Israeli style law that allows them balance the genders if they already have two children of the same sex.

“There’s a difference between that and being able to choose your first child because you want a boy… there are cultures where that sort of thing happens,’’ he told News Limited.

Fertility Society of Australia president Michael Chapman called for “gender balancing”.

“I see many distraught couples with three or four children of the same sex who want to have a child of the opposite sex,” he said.

Chrissy Teigen and John Legend used PGB controversially to have their baby girl. Image via Getty/ Instagram.

I can’t claim to know the ache of desperately wanting a daughter when I only had sons, or of the hunger to be the mother of a little boy when I only had daughters.

I don’t know the deep-seated feelings of being incomplete, of wanting what feels like that last missing piece of the puzzle, but I don’t discount these deep-seated desires exist and don’t see why a solution should be denied to those who want it.

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Arguments about gender selection fit the same mould.

Those who say these parents “should be happy with that they have”, when let's be honest, I am sure they actually are.

I am sure they are overwhelmed with love for their existing children. I am sure they cherish and protect them.

But it doesn’t mean they can’t ache for more, for a boy or a girl.

There are also those who believe it is interfering in “nature" (just like IVF itself, perhaps?), that it is “science playing God”.

This argument claims gender selection is a slippery slope to “designer babies”. But numerous ethicists and experts have discounted these theories. The chairman of the NHMRC, Professor Olver, told News Limited there was no evidence of it.

“There’s no natural progression between approving non-medical sex selection and approving being able to select other characteristics,” he said.

“Sex selection is a discrete choice around which a definite boundary can be drawn.”

In fact, the PGD procedure doesn’t even allow for genetic engineering of certain traits, and many traits such as intelligence or strength result from the interaction of multiple genetic or environmental factors.

If you wanted to give birth to The Hulk, PGD wouldn’t be any help in the matter.

About 80 per cent of Australian couples using sex selection overseas opt for a girl. Image via iStock.

And then there are those who incite the argument that PGD is like the 'one child' policy, and that it will change the balance of society to a male dominated one - another theory that hasn’t panned out in countries, such as the US, where gender selection has been available for years.

In fact, studies have shown that about 80 per cent of Australian couples using sex selection overseas opt for a girl.

The US example also shows us that perhaps we are worrying unnecessarily. Currently in the US, according to Live Science, only six per cent of IVF cycles involve the technique whereby a gender can be determined.

The last argument we hear is about love - that parental love should be unconditional not based on the gender of a child.

Ethicists and experts have debated this over and over again.

A similar debate in the UK proposed that prior to being allowed PGD for sex selection for family balancing, (if it was approved in the UK), parents should have to go through counselling and the welfare of the future child would have to be considered. Then, if it was determined that parents had unreasonable expectations about having a child of a certain sex, they would be refused the treatment.

But all they really needed to do was look into their own hearts.

I don’t love my daughter or sons any differently, but it’s nice to have a chance to be a mother to both. Why shouldn’t anyone else get that same chance?

"I don’t love my daughter or sons any differently but it’s nice to have a chance at being a mother to both genders ". Image supplied.

Gender selection is science, once again, helping us fulfill our dreams.

For those who say that couples should be happy with that they’ve got, it is time to wake up.

The science is there, if it can be used to help a couple complete their family in the way they want, and via their own funds, then what’s the point in getting in the way of that?

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