IVF sex selection sparks ethical debate
Updated August 10, 2019 09:40:41
It is no accident that Stacey Hughes’s fourth baby is a girl.
- Sex selection through IVF is prohibited in Australia, except if a baby is at risk
- Some want Australian restrictions reviewed and lifted
- A new study aims to find out why some people are so driven to want a baby of a particular sex
The central Queensland mother was happy with her three boys, and yet, something was missing.
“I lost my mother 10 years ago, so I don’t have that mother-daughter relationship, and after I had my third boy, I really wanted to have a baby girl,” Ms Hughes said.
“If I was going to have another child naturally, there was a high probability it would be a boy, so I just wanted to take that risk out of it.”
At 38 years of age, she figured the clock was ticking, so started investigating sex selection through IVF.
The procedure is prohibited in Australia, except if a baby is at risk of inheriting a serious medical condition.
Ms Hughes found a clinic in Los Angeles that would perform the procedure, and the whole family travelled to America.
“The cost of the procedure was $US15,000 and then on top of that — the cost of travelling, the flights, the accommodation for three weeks — so yes, it was quite an expensive trip,” she said.
‘Should be an individual’s choice’
Brisbane fertility specialist David Molloy said Ms Hughes’ story was increasingly common.
“It would be rare for a fortnight to go by where I don’t have a couple seeking gender selection,” Dr Molloy said.
“To be fair, not many patients can afford overseas treatment.”
Dr Molloy is backing a new push by a group of parents to have the Australian restrictions reviewed and lifted, so parents who have two or more babies of the same sex can choose the sex of their next.
He said it should be an individual’s choice.
“I just don’t think the state should be sticking its nose into people’s bedrooms,” Dr Molloy said.
“There is just no harm associated with doing gender selection for a set number of families who want to family balance.
“There’s no cost, because the patients have to wear it themselves, so there’s no cost to the Medicare system or society.”
‘I felt like I was ripped off’
The Legalise Family Balancing group has written to more than 100 state and federal MPs and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to plead its case.
Its letter states “gender desire causes genuine and, at times, severe distress in those experiencing it. Restricting sex selection is effectively denying Australians access to what would be an effective means of alleviating this distress”.
It said gender disappointment caused “psychological anguish” and some women were terminating pregnancies based on gender.
One woman, who wished to remain anonymous, told ABC News of her devastation at losing her daughter at 33 weeks, then falling pregnant with a baby boy.
“I felt like I was ripped off — I felt like nothing would ever be the same again and that my whole world was just coming crashing down, because it was not what I’d hoped and not what I’d dreamed,” she said.
“Despite having two beautiful boys — they can’t fill that void of a girl — because they’re different, they’re completely different.”
‘Value of unconditional love’
Bernadette Tobin, director of the Plunkett Centre for Ethics in Sydney, said she believed the Australian ban must remain, even if it caused parents distress.
“Admission to life should not be conditional on the child coming up to any expectations of the parents,” Dr Tobin said.
“The value of unconditional love is such a social, as well as personal good, that it’s worth preserving, insofar as we can.”
Dr Tobin said she feared permitting sex selection would open the door for other characteristics as well.
Ian Olver, formerly the chair of the Australian Health Ethics Committee, is about to embark on a study to learn more about why some people are so driven to want a baby of a particular sex.
“If the law in some states — or indeed the social attitude towards sex selection — is going to change, I think understanding what motivates people to want it is important,” Professor Olver said.
Topics: fertility-and-infertility, reproduction-and-contraception, health, pregnancy-and-childbirth, human-interest, people, babies, babies—newborns, family-and-children, community-and-society, australia, qld, brisbane-4000
First posted August 10, 2019 05:22:40