Page URL:

Study finds little support for sex selection

7 November 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 333

A new UK study of peoples' attitudes towards social sex selection has found that 80 per cent believe that parents should not be allowed to choose their baby's sex, even for 'family balancing' reasons. The researchers, based at the Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Unit at Newcastle University, questioned 48 members of the public and ten medical professionals. Study leader Tom Shakespeare said he was 'surprised' that those questioned were so vehemently against sex selection, the BBC News website reports.

The participants were asked their opinions after a discussion about the issues surrounding sex selection for non-medical reasons, also known as 'social' sex selection. The majority did not support this use of reproductive technology, even for couples who already have children of one sex, and want to have a child of the opposite gender. 'I was surprised by the results, but these were not 'off-the-cuff remarks', said Shakespeare, adding 'these were the results of considered views after an hour or two of discussion'.

Among the concerns raised by the group were that sex selection could send out the message that it is morally acceptable to have a strong preference for one sex over the other. Other participants felt that allowing couples to choose their babies' sex could turn children into 'consumer items' - one person said: 'Where does it actually stop? Do you stop at boys, girls, blonde hair, blue eyes, superior race?'.

Josephine Quintavalle, of the pro-life pressure group Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE), said that she was delighted by the findings, adding 'the public know where the limits should be and it gladdens my heart'. A spokesman for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) said that the study reinforced the authority's own research that the UK public is not in favour of sex selection for social reasons.

All forms of sex selection for non-medical reasons are currently banned in the UK, following a 2003 ruling by the HFEA. Permitting sex selection for family balancing reasons was cautiously approved in a recent report by the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. Commenting on the Newcastle study, committee member and Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris said that opinion polls should not be allowed to affect policy making for others, adding 'the point about reproductive autonomy is not whether people think it is a good idea, but whether people themselves think it is such a bad idea that it would do harm'.

Family balancing choice opposed
BBC News Online |  5 November 2005
21 February 2011 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
A Liverpool hospital has said it will investigate allegations that one of its doctors had apparently offered to make arrangements for an undercover reporter posing as a prospective patient to undergo a sex-selection procedure for family balancing abroad...
17 February 2006 - by BioNews 
A new study carried out at the University of Illinois in Chicago shows that most people would not choose the sex of their baby, if given the option. The findings, published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, are based on an online survey of 1,197 men and women aged between...
28 October 2005 - by BioNews 
A new US trial will look at the social effects of allowing parents to choose whether they have a baby girl or boy. The study, based at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, will follow up babies born following the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to choose...
11 April 2005 - by Professor Guido Pennings 
The recommendations of the recent report by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee in the UK have stirred up the discussion on social sex selection. Over the years, the discussion on sex selection has been seriously hampered by the high emotional engagement of the participants. As a consequence...
24 March 2005 - by BioNews 
The UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (STC) is deeply divided over its inquiry into Human Reproductive Technologies and the Law. Only half of the ten committee members put their names to the summary report, published today alongside a Special Report detailing the committee's disagreements. The dissenting MPs...
21 March 2005 - by BioNews 
A survey of 561 American women undergoing treatment for infertility shows that 41 per cent would choose the sex of their baby, if sex selection was offered at no additional cost. However, it seems that any fears about sex selection causing gender imbalances are unfounded, say the researchers, as the...
19 January 2004 - by BioNews 
The Science and Technology Committee (STC) of the UK's House of Commons is launching an online consultation into human reproductive technologies and the law. The consultation will be launched at a joint STC and British Academy debate on sex selection - just one of the issues to be covered in the...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.