Sex Selection In IVF

Posted on 15 February 2021

Sex selection in IVF is not legally allowed in Australia for reasons of family balancing.

My view as a doctor practicing IVF is that we have this technology, it’s safe and I don’t have a problem with patients using it electively. I don’t think Medicare should fit the bill – if a family is not infertile and doesn’t need IVF for other reasons, IVF for sex selection should be allowed but privately funded.

I have personally had frank discussions with families who do meet the Medicare definitions for infertility, are trying for their third baby after successfully conceiving before, and who would value the opportunity of knowing the sex of their IVF embryos so that a choice could be made to preferentially transfer embryos first of the opposite gender to their two children. I have had this discussion in circumstances where families preferences would be to select girls vs boys in equal numbers.

Disturbingly I have also experienced families using readily available technology of NIPT (non invasive prenatal testing) which can identify fetal gender from free fetal DNA present in a mother’s blood test as early as 9 weeks of pregnancy, deciding to terminate. This information can reveal gender, with women accessing abortion of healthy pregnancies in order to get around Australia’s sex selection ban.

This approach carries incredible risk for physical and emotional harm to mothers compared to the safe and preferential IVF technology allowing sex diagnosis and selection of embryos before implantation.

I would support legalisation of sex selection in Australia for the purpose of family balancing. However, until the NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Committee) ethical guidelines on Assisted Reproductive Technology change their stance on this issue, sex selection in IVF can only be used for medical reasons, to avoid inheritance of sex related diseases in babies.


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