Human Genetics Alert
EMBARGO: 00.01 am 12th November 2003
HGA welcomes sex selection recommendations
HGA today welcomed recommendations by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority that sex selection for non-medical purposes should be banned.
Dr David King, HGA’s Director, said: “It is vital that the government listens to the voices of the huge majority that oppose sex selection. We need legislation to plug the loopholes in the law as soon as possible. If Britain allows sex selection to continue, it will greatly damage its international reputation for responsible regulation of genetic technology.”
“It is wrong to choose the sex of a child, simply because we happen to want a boy or a girl. The creation of a new life is the most morally serious thing you can do. We must not let it become just another consumer choice. If we permit sex selection, we have not opened the door to designer babies a crack – we have flung the door wide open.”
“Sex selection is the exercise of sexism at the most profound level – deciding who gets to live. While ‘family balancing’ might seem understandable, it is no better than any other whim. If you are not prepared to accept and parent both a boy or a girl, you should not be a parent.”
For more information contact Dr David King, 020 7704 6100.
Notes for editors
1. Human Genetics Alert is an independent, pro-choice, watchdog group. Our briefing on sex selection can be found at: www.hgalert.org/sexselectionupdate.htm.
2. Because of the lack of a ban on sex selection in the UK , sex selection advertisements have already targeted communities of Indian origin which traditionally have strong son preferences (www.hgalert.org/pReleases/pr12-12-02.htm).
3. There are three main techniques of sex selection: (i) pre-natal testing and termination of pregnancy (ii) pre-implantation genetic testing of embryos (iii) sperm sorting – selection of sperm carrying X or Y chromosomes followed by insemination or IVF.
Pre-natal testing and termination is the main problem in India . In the UK , abortion purely on the grounds of sex would be against the 1967 Abortion Act, but it is possible for parents to ask about the sex of the child when undergoing ultrasound scanning.
Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) of embryos is regulated by the HFEA. They do not currently allow its use for sex selection, except for avoiding sex-linked genetic diseases, like Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
Sperm sorting has ‘improved’ greatly in its accuracy over the last few years, and is now being offered by companies in the US . This is what has led the HFEA to consult the public. Sperm sorting is not covered by any legislation in the UK .
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