‘Let parents choose babies’ sex’

NZ Herald June 19, 2008

Parents should have the right to choose the sex of their unborn babies, the Government will be told today. The Bioethics Council, a ministerial advisory committee, will give it a report which says individuals are in the best position to make decisions about sex selection. The report – titled Who Gets Born? – concludes that the sex of embryos created outside the mother’s body under programmes such as IVF (in vitro fertilisation) should be chosen by parents. That would mean mothers and fathers would be able to gender-balance their families – something critics have attacked as “designer babies”. The Government is working on guidelines to govern the growing availability and consequences of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis – the testing of embryos created outside the womb. Under current laws, introduced in 2004, sex selection is banned except to treat a genetic disorder or disease. Penalties for breaches are jail terms of up to five years or a fine of up to $200,000.

The Bioethics Council’s programme leader, John Pennington, said the report would advise a change. “We are finding … that individuals are the people who have to have the ultimate responsibility in making decisions on such personal, sensitive things as sex selection.”