The UK government has planned to outlaw sex selection of babies for non-medical reasons as part of its shake-up of embryology regulation.
Health Minister Caroline Flint has told Parliament that she intended to introduce a "clear and specific ban" on the use of techniques to choose a gender of baby, saying that allowing such practices among parents-to- be could be the start of a "slippery slope" to designer babies.
Flint has also indicated a change in rules that allow fertility clinics to block treatment for single women as well as lesbian couples. Present regulations state the need for a father in considerations of the future child's welfare. Other aspects of the reform would include new criteria on what medical conditions embryos can be screened for.
Presently pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is licensed for parents carrying genes for serious conditions like cystic fibrosis and Huntington's disease to avoid transferring the faulty gene on to their children.
In addition it is possible to test embryos for some cancers caused by a "lower penetrance" gene - meaning not everyone who inherits the faulty gene will go on to develop the disease.
Ms Flint has also rejected calls for a review of the abortion time limit as professional bodies had still not presented any scientific evidence to back demands for an inquiry into a need for shortening the present 24-week limit.