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Gender Selection With a Difference Looking for a Girl, They Travel Abroad!

by Gopalan on October 30, 2008 at 12:57 PM
 Gender Selection With a Difference  Looking for a Girl, They Travel Abroad!

It is gender selection with a difference. Many UK couples travel abroad to get a girl child. In that country itself, gender selection for non-medical reasons is not permitted.

As the Human Fertility and Embryology Bill will make any kind of gender selection illegal, dozens of couples travel abroad for fertility treatment to ensure their child is the gender they want.

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And unlike in the more backward countries, it is the desire for a girl child that prompts couples to opt for such a move. For many have had three or four boys and dearly wish for a girl to balance the family.

However, experts have warned they are putting themselves at risk of major complications by seeking unregulated treatment abroad.

Sex selection can be done in two ways. The first is a relatively straight forward method of sorting sperm to separate those that will make girls from those that make boys.
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The second is a more sophisticated pre-implantation genetic diagnosis which involves taking cells from early stage embryos to establish the sex and implanting only embryos of the gender of choice in the womb.

Until July last year sperm sorting did not fall under the remit of the fertility regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, and so could be freely practised.

But last year changes were made so the clinic offering any sort of sperm processing had to be licensed for the HFEA and offering sex selection for non-medical reasons would be in breach of the licence and so couples could no longer choose the sex of their child in the UK.

The new Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill will enshrine this in law for the first time.

Selecting one gender over another can still be carried out for medical reasons where a couple carry a serious genetic disorder which affects only boys such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy and selecting embryos by sex is the only way to avoid creating a child with a life limiting condition.

This is becoming less common as more sophisticated genetic diagnosis techniques can identify the affected gene and discard those embryos carrying that gene, rather than avoiding all male embryos.

The Commons Science and Technology Select Committee recommended in 2005 that sex selection for family balancing should be allowed as there was no evidence that the gender mix of society would be adversely affected.

Couples are getting round the ban by seeking treatment abroad often advertised over the internet. Sex selection for non-medical reasons is not banned in America or Russia.

But often clinics abroad are not regulated to the same degree as in the UK and couples may undergo procedures that are not recommended in the UK because they are too risky.

Clinics abroad may implant multiple embryos in the womb and this substantially increases the risk of having twins or triples which is the single biggest risk to the mother's and babies' health during IVF.

A poll conducted by the HFEA during a consultation on sex selection found 80 per cent of people were against allowing it for non-medical reasons.

Professor Lisa Jardine, Chairman of the HFEA, said: "At the front of every patient's mind when they seek treatment is the desire for an own child. Our job, as the UK's regulator, is to make sure that desire does not put the patient at risk.

"Those who seek treatment outside the UK do so because they believe they can make treatment choices, such as sex selection, that are unavailable in this country. However, my deep concern is that these patients thereby also remove themselves from our help and protection."

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