Choosing the sex of your baby stirs up many ethical questions
Imagine you are about to have your third child. You’ve already got two daughters, and are really hoping for a son.
Would you consider finding out the sex of your child in the early weeks so that you could abort the pregnancy if the fetus is another girl?
While the majority of Australians say no, for some families the answer is yes.
Sex selection is the attempt to control the sex of your children to achieve a desired gender.
It can be accomplished in several ways, both pre- and post-implantation of an embryo, and it is often called “family balancing”.
While there are a number of unproved methods of gender selection, such as sperm sorting and the timing of intercourse, the most common method is preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) in which embryos are created outside the womb and can then be tested for genetic disorders and gender. This is the only method which has 100 per cent accuracy.
In Australia, it is illegal to use this technology for sex selection purposes other than for medical reasons.
The use of PGD in this country is allowed only in cases where parents suffer serious genetic diseases that can be passed to children of one gender.
However, this means that dozens of Australians travel to Thailand and the US each year and spend thousands of dollars to choose the sex of their children.
A study undertaken in 2010 by the University of Melbourne found that 69 per cent of people surveyed disapproved the use of IVF for sex selection, with the disapproval rate increasing to 80 per cent for sex-selective abortions.
Headed by Dr Rebecca Kippen, the study analysed responses from more than 2500 people.
“Opposition to these technologies was grounded in three major concerns: the potential for distorted sex ratios; that sex selection can be an expression of gender bias; and a concern about ‘designer infants’ being created, when parents should be happy with a healthy baby,” she said.