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"We just really wanted a daughter..."

Is it ok to use gender selection?

By MAMAMIA TEAM

The idea of gender selection divides dinner table discussions around the country. There are many who are staunchly opposed to the idea, saying that it is unethical, that it’s ‘playing God’ to give couples the right to determine the gender of their baby.

These same people often argue that even though the technology is available, it shouldn’t be used; and that if people are lucky enough to get pregnant, they should be happy whether it’s a girl or a boy. Surely ‘happy and healthy’ should be the only things you care about when it comes to the birth of your baby. Right?

Well, the McMahon family of NSW disagree.

After having seven boys in a row, Jodi and Andrew McMahon were desperate for a baby girl. They’d tried all the so-called natural solutions – diets, positions, timing – but nothing seemed to be working.

Every time they got pregnant, they got a little boy.

It wasn’t that the couple didn’t love their sons but Jodi wanted to experience the mother-daughter relationship she’d heard so much about.

Jodi and Andrew in an interview with 60 Minutes

”It was a longing for that relationship when you’re 50 and she’s 20, that mother-daughter relationship… that’s what I was scared I was going to miss out on,” Jodi told Fairfax earlier this month.

The couple felt that their only remaining option was gender selection. That is, when doctors use IVF to create embryos and then transfer only a male or female embryo into the mother.

The only problem is that gender selection is banned in Australia – it’s used only for sex-linked chromosomal disorders.

According to CNN, the reason for the ban on selecting gender for lifestyle reasons is because of a concern about creating a gender imbalance.

Michael Sandel, a Harvard University professor told CNN: “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.

So the McMahon family decided to travel to a Los Angeles clinic that could help them.

It cost them $40,000 in total but the McMahon family got what they wanted. At the time, Jodi told Woman’s Day: “It’s finally happened, and we feel complete. We feel we’ve done what we came here to do. To bring some beautiful, loving children into the world. I’ve got one more frozen egg back in the US. So we’ll try for one more girl next year.”

That is exaclt what they did.

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After the McMahons conceived Addison in 2010, they returned last year and conceived Evie.

“If you have to fertilise eggs from ordinary sperm, you’ve only got a 50/50 chance of getting a girl or a boy,” Jodi told Woman’s Day. “But we had 90 per cent chance.”

Now the McMahons have Luke, Aydan, Josh, Billy, Cody, Declan, Addison and Evie. Unfortunately they lost one son, Riley, when he was just a baby.

The McMahon boys

Earlier this week, the McMahon family appeared on Channel 9’s Today to talk about their decision.

“I didn’t want to be 60 or 70 sitting there thinking ‘we should have done it, we should have done it.’ I just wanted to give it one go and if it worked it worked and if it didn’t? We tried,” Jodi told hosts Karl Stefanovic and Lisa Wilkinson.

“We just really wanted a daughter and I had no ethical problems with it. It doesn’t occur to me that it’s not right. I understand the other side of the story, but it doesn’t feel wrong, I don’t think it is wrong. I think it’s up to the individual family and I just don’t think it really matters what other people say.”

Daniel Potter, the gender specialist who helped Jodi and Andrew, says he’s seeing an average of 15 to 20 couples per month from Australia at his US clinic. And they’re travelling because they’re not permitted to use IVF to gender select here.

Potter said couples fall pregnant 83 per cent of the time and get their expected gender 100 per cent of the time. But Australians are not just travelling to the US for treatment. They’re also going to Asia, where the treatment is much cheaper.

Three years ago a Melbourne woman who had three boys travelled to Thailand and paid $15,000 to try and conceive a girl.

“I wouldn’t trade my sons for a million daughters – this is not about my sons. It is about me and my husband wanting a daughter. For me, it is about the desire to have a daughter being such a strong desire in me that I can’t seem to shake it,” she told the Herald Sun at the time.

She knew the laws may change in Australia one day but said her biological clock was ticking and she wasn’t willing to wait.

“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.”

What do you think? Should couples be able to select the sex of their baby for the reason of family balance? Or should that kind of technology only be used for health reasons? How far would you go to have a child of each sex?

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