A new study has shown that if sex selection for non-medical reasons was allowed in either the UK or Germany, gender ratios in those countries would not become imbalanced. A team of German researchers asked more than 1000 members of the UK public and a similar number of Germans what they felt about 'gender selection'. They found that 21 per cent of Britons and six per cent of Germans would be prepared to pay to select the gender of a child.
The researchers, from the University of Geissen, have published the results of their surveys in the journal Human Reproduction. The results show a difference in attitude towards sex selection in each country. Germans tended to 'be more relaxed' about the sex of their children, and would be less inclined to use sex selection, the survey shows. Only six per cent said that if a sex selection technique like MicroSort was available, at a cost of about €2,000, they would choose to use it. Ninety-two per cent said they would definitely not do so and, even when given the hypothetical option 'where they could take a blue pill for a boy and a pink for a girl', 90 per cent still said they would not.
In the UK, sixteen per cent of those questioned said that they did not care about the sex of their children, compared with 58 per cent of Germans. Asked if they would use a sex selection technique like MicroSort, costing about £1,250, 21 per cent indicated that they would like to take advantage of it. Seventy-one per cent said that they definitely would not. Dr Edgar Dahl, leader of the research team, said that 'compared to the Germans, the British are much more receptive to the idea of employing reproductive technology to select the sex of their children'.
The results also showed that while 30 per cent of Germans would like to have an equal number of girls and boys, the same was true of a much higher number of Britons (68 per cent). Dr Dahl commented that it is 'precisely this marked preference for a 'balanced family' in the UK that would prevent any gender imbalances from happening there'. 'Much of the opposition to 'social' sex selection is based on the assumed danger of a sex ration distortion due to a common preference for boys over girls. But according to our surveys, this assumption seems to be unfounded', he added.
The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has undertaken a public consultation on sex selection for social reasons, which closed in January 2003. It is due to report to ministers later this year. Meanwhile, Dr Dahl and his team plan to conduct similar surveys in France, Italy, Spain, India and the US.