Australia Considers Lifting IVF Gender Selection Ban

Aussie parents may soon be able to choose the sex of their baby

How would you feel if you had three beautiful, healthy boys, but secretly longed for a daughter. Would you risk trying for ‘just one more’ in the hope that your new baby would be the little girl you never had?

What if your decision didn’t need to be a gamble, and you could be certain that your baby would be a girl?

This scenario could soon become real for Australian parents as the gender-selection guidelines will be formally reviewed over the coming weeks.

Currently in Australia parents who conceive their children via IVF are unable to choose the genders of their babies. With the exception of certain sex-linked medical conditions, parents in Australia are banned from choosing their children’s gender through IVF.

However, increasingly parents are opting to travel to overseas IVF clinics in order to select whether their baby will be a boy or a girl.

Because of this increasing trend, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is calling for public submissions as they review their guidelines on the topic. There is the potential that the council will lift the ban currently preventing Australian parents from partaking in gender selection.

IVF Australia’s medical director, Associate Professor Peter Illingworth, spoke to the ABC’s PM program. He explained that the majority of parents who use IVF in Australia simply want a healthy baby, but acknowledged that some parents have their hearts set on a boy or a girl:

“There is a small but significant number of couples who already have two to four children of one gender and would like to have the opportunity to balance their families for one reason or another, and sometimes these reasons can be quite significant, such as the loss of an existing child.”

Associate Professor Illingworth added that in his opinion it’s time for Australia’s medical guidelines to catch up with modern fertility technology.

Professor Ian Olver who is the chairman of the Australian Health Ethics Committee also spoke with the ABC’s PM program. He is overseeing the review and said that some couples want the option to choose their child’s gender to better balance their families.

“We know there’s a number of Australians going overseas to seek it because it’s not available here,” Professor Olver said.

He acknowledged that it’s not clear-cut whether gender-selection is ethical, which is why it’s currently not an option in Australia.

“Well, it’s a polarising topic and I think there’s a tension between the rights if you like of parents, but also, we need to take into account particularly the effect that that may have on the child subsequently,” he said.

Associate Professor Illingworth went on to explain that a common concern with gender-selection is that it will result in one gender being preferred over another, but he was quick to point out that this is not the case.

“All the data that we have available suggests that the requests would be equally for boys and for girls.”

The review of Australia’s current IVF gender-selection guidelines will begin in the coming weeks.

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