Dr. Daniel Potter recently visited the UK to discuss “gender selection.” As a fertility expert with a large fertility clinic on the West Coast of America, he has delivered over 750 babies to British mothers since 1997 – currently around ten patients each month. Since the practice of gender selection is illegal in the UK (under the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act and its 2008 amendments), British parents are opting to travel to the US for the IVF procedure which costs around £7,600 ($15,000) and requires a 12-day stay.

The law states that a license to assist in reproduction “cannot authorise any practice designed to secure that any resulting child will be of one sex rather than the other.” It also forbids “the testing of embryos for the purpose of establishing their sex.”

Gender selection based on non-medical reasons is also illegal in Canada and Great Britain. However, it is available in some countries in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

Dr. Potter expressed the aim of his UK visit: “I’m here to educate the British public on gender selection, explain the process and address some of the misconceptions surrounding the treatment. With more and more of my patients coming from the UK, I wanted to meet people face to face and explain that gender selection is a tested, trusted resource available to families.”

Reasons for Gender Selection

Some of the reasons given for having a child of a chosen gender are economic, social, or cultural. Eighty percent of couples want a girl and 20% want a boy. Parents may have one of the following reasons:

•Balancing their family – Couples with a child or two of one sex, may wish to have a child of the opposite sex.

•Rebuilding their family – If parents lose a child, they may wish to have a child of the same gender.

•Genetic disease prevention – Parents may wish to prevent certain genetic disorders such as hemophilia and muscular dystrophy, which occur only in boys.


Legal and Ethical Concerns

As already mentioned, some countries do not allow gender selection. Even the United States, where British couples are going to participate in gender selection has no governing body that has ruled on sex selection. It is actually up to the fertility clinics to decide whether to offer the procedure. Most only offer IVF to prevent genetic diseases or defects.

Although some consider gender selection simply a medical procedure, others argue about the morality. Additionally, some consider gender selection as promoting sexual discrimination and stereotypes. Others argue that it could lead procedures in which parents can choose the physical appearance and psychological characteristics of their children.

The moral dilemma comes from the fact that multiple eggs are created and then the desired sex is chosen. The remaining embryos are either frozen, donate to other parents, or disposed of, depending on the wishes of the couple. Those who believe that life begins at inception are, of course, opposed to the destruction of viable embryos.

An even deeper moral argument is made by those whose Christian views acknowledge an all-powerful God who controls lives. They argue that we are usurping the power of God to decide how many children we will have and what sex they will be.

We have been faced with medical morality previously. Some of us remember when heart transplants were first performed and those that argued we were prolonging lives God was ready to end. Few argue the morality of prolonging life now, and it is quite possible the arguments against gender selection will also abate over time. However, each couple must make their own decision and accept the consequences. If you are one of the couples seeking gender selection through IVF, the decision is not easy. It should not be made hastily or without considering the consequences, personally, culturally, and morally.

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