Gender selection has been an issue of contention within the Australian IVF industry for a number of years. They have the technology and have had for some time, but it’s currently illegal for either medical or non-medical reasons. This is why a proposed reshuffling of ethical guidelines within the Australian IVF sector has been relatively controversial.
If the proposal is implemented, IVF clients would have access to choose the sex of their baby regardless of reasoning. This would bring Australian laws surrounding IVF technology in line with countries such as the US. Additionally, the proposed changes will include financial compensation for female egg donors, much like male sperm donation.
For some couples with valid medical issues, these proposed changes would come as a blessing. These include people with a family history of disabilities who have been genetically tested and identified as having predisposed gene mutations. As some genes only become activated in either male or female offspring, having a choice to select the sex of their baby would significantly reduce their chances of conceiving a child with disabilities.
I know this may sound harsh or even unethical to some, however, having a child with special needs myself and coming from a family which harbours mutant genes for several types of intellectual disabilities, I know first hand the impact mutant genes can have on an individual and their family. There’s also a high cost to the community at large. Therefore, these proposed changes for medical reasons are valid.
It’s when the concept of designer families are breached that the issue of sex selection gets blurred. Currently in the name of “family balancing,” couples hell bent on specifically having a boy or girl have paid big bucks to travel outside of Australia. In places such as the US they have access to IVF facilities where they can choose the sex of their babies.
What does the Australian public think?
The most recent research was done back in 2013 and was conducted by Roy Morgan. They wanted to determine what Australians thought of IVF and sex selection. The results, listed below, were in favour of IVF in general, but selecting the sex of a child was a very different story.
- IVF treatment: 92 per cent agreed with IVF treatment while only 8 per cent opposed it.
- IVF treatment with gender selection for family balancing (non-medical reasoning for second and subsequent children): 20 per cent agreed with the proposal, while 80 per cent disagreed.
- IVF treatment with gender selection (selecting the gender of any child): 17 per cent agreed with the proposal while 80 per cent disagreed – 3 per cent were undecided.
There was no polling specifically for medical reasoning.
Whether or not these controversial changes will go ahead is yet to be determined. Obviously there is debate raging from both sides of the equation, each with exceptionally strong views. So, I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see which side has the strongest argument and comes out the victor.