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22 July 2014

UK: Couples travel for IVF

Some British couples are having IVF treatment in America to select the sex of their child, an IVF doctor has said; and more choose to have a girl than a boy.

Dr Daniel Potter, who runs a large fertility clinic in America, treats 10 patients from Britain a month who want to have IVF treatment only in order to select the sex of the baby, the Telegraph reports. Sex selection for social or family balancing reasons is illegal under the amended HFE Act, which came into force in 2009.

Dr Potter, who runs the HRC clinic in Newport Beach in California, said 80 per cent of couples from Britain are choosing to have a girl. He told the Telegraph:

“Some have only one child but most have two or three of the same gender. The process is driven by the mother who has identified with little girls since her own childhood and has always had a place for a daughter. When they do not have one, it is like a death and they grieve for their little girl.”

Dr Potter’s patients often do not need fertility treatment in order to conceive but go through the process so that the resulting embryos can be screened and the chosen sex transferred to the womb. The whole process costs around US$15,000 and requires a 12 day stay near the clinic.

Dr Potter said:

“I think that pregnancy termination as a method of gender selection is not acceptable but I also believe that is it not for me to impose my values on other people. I believe women should have reproductive freedom and that should include selecting the gender of their child if they wish. But in countries like the UK where the government pays for some IVF, taxpayers’ money should not be used to people can have a boy or a girl because that is what they want. That is inappropriate.

“I have had patients come to me from the other side of the world who have never been on a plane before and have saved up for a long time, it is really very important to them.”

He said the arguments against sex selection using IVF were mostly ‘absurd’ and focus on it ‘interfering with God’s will’ or somehow sexually discriminating against the embryo.

One British patient who asked to be known only as Hayley said:

“I’d always wanted a little girl but logistically, we didn’t want lots of children, we only wanted three, so we though we’d go down this route.

“My husband said “you can have one more baby” at which point I said, if I’m having one more I’ll make sure it’s a girl. I just think I’ve always wanted a mother daughter relationship. Not to take away from what I have with my sons which is lovely.”

A confused editorial by the Telegraph on 21 July argued:

‘“Gendercide” is, for many, the great silent crime of the 21st century. It is not one orchestrated by governments, although it is certainly abetted by their policies, especially in China. Instead, it is the result of millions of individual decisions, as families use abortion, sex selection and other technologies to make sure that boys survive and girls do not.

‘Britain has long congratulated itself on remaining free from such pressures. True, this newspaper did expose the willingness of adoption [sic] clinics to break the abortion rules for women who wanted a male child – and subsequent evidence of skewed gender ratios suggests that sex selection is a reality among certain groups. But there is no suggestion that gender-based abortion is widespread, or normalised. If anything, as Dr Daniel Potter now claims, British couples are less keen on boys: of those who fly out to his US clinic for sex-selective IVF treatment, eight out of 10 go for girls.

‘Still, the fact that the numbers visiting Dr Potter are increasing sharply shows that lawmakers need to remain watchful. As with assisted dying – the subject of a passionate debate in the House of Lords last week – tinkering with embryos can be made to sound eminently reasonable. It does not involve in-utero abortion, but selecting between embryos – or, as technologies advance, improving them via genetic manipulation. In future, parents will doubtless assert a right to ensure that their child is not born with a particular chromosomal disorder, and it will be hard to deny them. Yet it is also easy to see how this could shade into dictating certain traits – intelligence, appearance, gender – and discriminating against others. So far, Britain has a good record in terms of choosing which techniques to adopt and which to prohibit. As the science improves, such decisions will become more common, and more contentious.’

Number of women travelling to America to choose sex of child rises 20%. Telegraph, 21 July 2014

Unnatural selection. Telegraph, 21 July 2014

Also read:

The campaign against mythical sex-selective abortion: What we can learn from America. Reproductive Review, 14 July 2014