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Australian couple fight for right to choose the sex of their child

24 January 2011
Appeared 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.

The couple have applied to use PGD to determine the sex of the embryo. The sex of the child can then be assured by exclusively implanting embryos of the chosen gender.

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.


8 July 2013 - by Matthew Young 
A report produced by bioethicists from Keele University has concluded that there is no justifiable basis on which to ban IVF sex selection in the UK....
3 September 2012 - by Ayesha Ahmad 
Dr Jeffrey Steinberg, a British IVF specialist who is now director of a pair of private clinics in the USA has claimed that dozens of couples see him every year to select the sex of their babies...
15 August 2011 - by Dr Malcolm Smith 
The Australian state of Victoria was the first common law jurisdiction in the world to enact legislation to regulate assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs). Victoria's legislative framework has been updated a number of times and the most recent legislation (the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008 (Vic)) came into effect on 1 January 2010...
15 March 2010 - by Nishat Hyder 
The Australian federal five-year moratorium on the use of gender selection technology in IVF (in vitro fertilisation) treatment for so-called 'social' reasons ends this year, reopening this controversial debate. The Australian health watchdog, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), confirmed that that it will be conducting a review of this issue, beginning within the next few months, after the completion of its ongoing review of the Research Involving Human E...
8 February 2010 - by Anoushka Shepherd 
Any media coverage focusing on views toward children is always bound to be both emotive and contentious. '8 Boys and Wanting a Girl' fit that description perfectly. Throughout Channel 4's hour-long show, I felt an emotional cocktail of disgust, confusion, empathy, sorrow and disbelief....
1 September 2009 - by Sarah Pritchard 
A fertility clinic in the USA has revealed that it provides sex selection to many British couples who pay large amounts of money to travel and receive the service....
25 September 2006 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
A survey conducted for the Centre for Genetics and Public Policy, at the Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC, has revealed that an increasing number of couples in the US are choosing the sex of their baby for non-medical reasons through preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) offered by IVF...
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...
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