24 January 2011
ByAppeared in BioNews 592
An Australian couple are going to court to fight for their right to choose the sex of their next child. They applied to use IVF with gender selection technology to guarantee a daughter, but an independent bioethics panel rejected their request. They are now taking their case to the state of Victoria's Civil and Administrative Tribunal with the aim of reversing the decision.
In Australia, as in the UK, the use of PGD for gender selection is only permitted when it is used to avoid the transmission of sex-linked conditions such as haemophilia. For this purpose, PGD is available in the UK on the NHS. There are, however, many countries where PGD can be used for sex selection for non-medical purposes, one being the USA.
The Australian Health Ethics Committee (AHEC) state in its clinical practice guidelines that: 'Sex selection is incompatible with the parent-child relationship being one that involves unconditional acceptance', and that 'sex selection may be an expression of sexual prejudice, in particular against girls'. The guidelines are expected to be reviewed later this year.
Professor Gab Kovacs, an IVF pioneer, is leading a lobby against the ban on sex selection in Australia. Speaking about the couple, he said: 'Why should we make this illegal? Who is this going to harm if this couple have their desire fulfilled?' The couple want a girl after their first daughter died in her infancy. Before applying for the right to use this system the couple chose to terminate a twin male pregnancy. An argument in favour of the use of PGD for sex selection is that it may reduce the incidence of selective abortion.
The use of sex selection for non-medical purposes such as 'family balancing' is controversial. In the UK, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) carried out a national survey in 2003, finding that 82 percent of the British population were against sex selection for non-medical reasons.