Parents undergoing IVF treatment could be allowed to choose the sex of their baby under proposals recommended by MPs.
A report by the Commons Science and Technology Committee said patients and their doctors should have more control of their fertility treatments.
The MPs also said that decisions about whether to allow embryos to be checked for genetic conditions should be taken out of the hands of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and called for the regulator to be disbanded.
Do you think parents undergoing fertility treatment should be allowed to choose the sex of their baby?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
Unless there is a medical reason for selection, absolutely not. If people are using IVF to have a baby, one assumes ( rightly, judging by other mail on this site) that they would just be pleased to have a healthy baby.
NO!! Please leave few things for God.
Khumar Raza, Mankato, MN, USA
Lets just set a few things straight here. The NHS does not pay for IVF. If "nature knows best", why do we treat other conditions like cancer or even a toothache? Is this also "interfering with nature"? Chris of Telford should ask his wife what she might think of never having children. People who go for IVF don't care what the sex of the baby is. They just desperately want one!
They have to put up with being considered failures; being asked the most insulting and personal questions (oh, the state loves shoving it's nose in where it can), and putting up with some awful medical procedures. This is turning into a witch-hunt driven, as always by the ignorant and opinionated who think that because IVF allows choice and choice is bad then IVF is bad. Some folk here need a course in critical thinking. They might try empathising a little but maybe that's just too much work eh?
Totally agree with Chris of Telford! WAY too much money is being wasted on these selfish women who want to satisfy their own needs with the almighty BABY of their own. Plenty of kids out there are looking for homes, instead of all this rubbish maybe some relaxing of the adoption policies is needed!
Who cares about Nature's course? I understand that we are a part of nature and need to take care of the environment, but we are above the environment. Our powers of science makes this true. We decide our own course. If it were up to nature, we would all live in caves and die when we were 30 years old.
Mark, Brisbane, Australia
I would like to see the introduction of a law that would allow only those parents having first three babies of the same sex to be allowed for once only to determine the sex of their fourth child. Science is developing so rapidly that if we wish to maintain balance and equity of our human race then we have to apply brakes on these genetic engineers from upsetting immaculate laws of nature.
Saqib Khan, London
I don't have a religious problem with it, as someone rightly pointed out all medicine is playing God. People who go through the hell of IVF are at least people who want to be parents and not people whose contraception let them down/was non-existent. What bothers me is that the preference for sons - and let's not pretend it's restricted to "some communities": many people prefer to have a son as the firstborn, especially if there are goodies to inherit - will see the same results here as it did in India and China.
Boy or girl - who cares? Far too much taxpayer's money is wasted on IVF as it is - I thought the NHS was there to treat sick people. Women who cannot have a baby are not sick - they just want something they were not destined to have. Spend the money on the people who are already living and often in severe pain, and let the women use their energies making the world a better place, I am of the opinion that the world's population should be falling anyway - the present one is unsustainable.
I believe if parents are having to go through IVF treatment for a baby there must be a very good reason for this so the only thing they should be worrying about is that. If the sex of the baby is all they are worrying about then I don't believe they deserve the chance for one.
Sheona Taylor, Glasgow
Are we so preoccupied with whether or not we can do something, that we haven't stopped to think if we should?
Why should parents be allowed to select their baby's sex? It sounds to me being quite odd, and maybe a bit sexist. It also sounds very selfish. In the beginning, it will be choosing its sex. Then it will be choosing its eye colour, hair colour, skin colour - you name it. It will basically be 'baby editing'. This, to me, sounds very disgusting. Let nature take it's own course. I say no, this behaviour is appalling.
Rachael McDougall, Sheffield
I think that if something doesn't do any obvious damage to anything or anyone it should be OK. There are far more important things in life that I could moan about.
Yet more of everyone believing they have rights. It's a pity there is little acceptance of responsibilities.
A baby's sex should be determined without intervention. Doing so may bring unexpected conditions.
Sergio, New York
I can't understand why a certain minority is making such a fuss about playing God. Let's have a more responsible debate, if we need one at all.
|Jon Swift, Bury St Edmunds
We gave up natural selection a long time ago. Medicine is by definition interference in the natural order of things. Doctors play god every time they save a life. We interfere every time we keep a weak child alive until they're old enough to pass on their weak genes. What about premature babies that if left to nature should have died? There does seem to be a general perception that choosing the sex or any other physical aspects of a child is a callous choice, made in the same fashion as choosing the right appliances to match your kitchen. Most parents just want to make sure their child has the best start possible in the world.
I agree with those here that say that this is ridiculous. IVF is interfering with nature and that's suspect enough. There are all kinds of reasons why people find it hard to conceive and many of them are because nature knows best. Spending NHS money on IVF treatment is hard to justify. Then allowing people to choose the sex of their baby is just plain wrong.
I think it is wrong to select the baby's sex. I think it should be left as natural selection, the joy of having children is a treat. We should be thankful that we are having children. Just think of the people who cannot have children for different reasons. br />Raja Basharat, Hemel Hempstead
The scientists are so occupied with the fact that the can do this that it seems they never stop to think whether they should! We have already destroyed so many wonderful things in this world, don't let's no contribute to our own race's destruction more than we already have!
I am an IVF parent, delighted to be the mother of a beautiful daughter. I would have been happy with either gender, just grateful to be given the chance to be a family. My husband and I tried for five years to have a child naturally. We paid ourselves for every penny-worth of treatment and had success with our second IVF. How dare people say that we should have left well alone! We had to jump through many hoops to be considered for IVF. We simply sought a medical solution to a medical problem. Would people consider withholding available treatment from smokers or the obese? My infertility was through no fault of my own and my husband I thought long and hard about how much we were able to offer a child before becoming parents, unlike many who become parents as result of one-night stands etc.
My reasons and the justification for my arguments stem from a very sound Biblical perspective. This shows that the Creator of all forms of creation Jehovah Elohim is the only Supreme God who has a right to not only determine a baby's sex but also determine the constituent elements of its spirit as well.
George Gyimah, Harrow
Perhaps we could balance the number of people who are born with blond or black hair, blue or brown eyes. Perhaps we could balance also the numbers of people born with high or low IQs! Oh Brave New World!
Marie Howard, England
Absolutely not. If parents chose gender, then there would be a slow move towards a grave imbalance in the demographic male-female ratio.
Alex Mangan, Swindon
The ability to choose the sex should soon be available to non-IVF patients with a simple sperm separating test done at home, with no embryos involved. So it is about more than just IVF. Of course people should remember that sex selection - or at least influencing - has been going on for years. The types of food you eat, the timing of sex with ovulation. No one seems to be in an uproar about that.
It takes the fun out of life and for the more serious concern that if everyone did this they could end up messing with an entire generation's demographics.
I don't agree with this being allowed at all, other than for medical reasons where one gender may carry a particular condition or disease. My view is that IVF is there to help childless couples do what, for whatever reason, they are unable to do naturally, and in nature you don't get to choose the sex, you take what you're given. I think its not going to be couples who cannot conceive naturally who will "benefit" from this change, as I am sure most of them just want a baby. Its going to be wealthy people using IVF as a means of circumventing nature.
Any parent should be allowed to choose if they so wish. What they lose which is irreplaceable it that magic moment of revelation when the doctor says its a ****. How can any sane person miss out on that experience?
S Brody, Kuala Lumpur
The whole business of 'discarded' foetuses is repugnant. Is that how little we have come to value fellow humans?
Should parents select their baby's sex? - Why not? As James Watson, discoverer of the structure of DNA, has asked: 'If we don't play God, who will?'
Edmund Standing, Shoreham-by-Sea, England
What happened to the days when people did not care if it was a boy or a girl as long as it was healthy? This is where science and technology has gotten the best of humanity! If parents want to select the baby's sex, there is adoption you know!
Neil, Sacramento, California USA
Absolutely not! It is nature's job to decide who we are, what we are like, and whether or not we survive the test of time. It most certainly isn't the job of a parent or scientist!
Andy, Leeds, UK
Surely if we allow the sex of children to be dictated by parental preference in the case of IVF conceptions we open the doors for couples or lone women who can conceive naturally to choose to pay for IVF instead to legally increase control over exactly what they procreate. A choice too far I believe.
Lisa Burt, Isle of Wight
So long as the IVF clinics implant the same number of viable male and female embryos, why not?
Terry Browning, Wells, UK
There are some cultures represented in the UK that favour sons over daughters. Allowing choice will therefore soon result in an imbalance of the sexes in such communities. Does not sound like a good idea to me!
As a couple on the waiting list for IVF, we would be over the moon to conceive a child. The sex of the child would make no difference what so ever. Just to be able to have a child would in itself an immense joy. I think that any childless couple would have the same view
Emma McEwan, Essex
People are paying through the nose for these "test-tube" babies so it is fine to choose the sex, hair colour, IQ etc. It would be a boon for overpopulated countries- really!! Having only boys would lower the population very quickly.
Kaye, NYC USA
I am currently going through IVF treatment. No one would choose this lightly. The sex of any child that we are lucky enough to have is of absolutely no importance. I'm sure that a survey of IVF patients would show that what we want is a child and we have no interest in choosing the baby's sex. No one -regardless of their method of reproduction - needs to have this sort of choice, unless there are sound genetic reasons.
Ruth Cassidy, Cambridge, UK
A very, very bad idea. I belong to a community that has sadly and historically favoured male children. I will guarantee all the readers that some communities in this country will have a huge imbalance of male children being born if this goes ahead. This cannot be good for society. I cannot believe that the Government can entertain this idea without thinking of all the impacts of gender selection.
Ajay, London, UK
No. Lots of people want things they cannot have; it's all part of life. As long as the child is healthy, it should not matter whether it's a boy or girl. People should learn to be happy with what they've got.
So let me get this right. I am so desperate for a child that I am willing to subject myself to the "horrors" of the ups and downs of IVF, but only if it guarantees me a son? That may freak nature by having a designer baby, but they will never control how that child turns out, very much NOT a designer family I am sure.
Paul O'Callaghan, London, UK
Leaving the subjectivity of ethical discourse aside, the sex of a child must not be determined by any man. The percentage of males and females born is a balance determined by nature. We interfere with the gender balance at our peril. One can only imagine the effects of even the slightest shift in Male/Female ratio which is bound to result if parents are allowed to pre-determine the gender of their offspring. This is no question of ethics; it is one of "can the human race withstand a shift in nature's balance?" I argue it cannot. It is simple. It is logic. It is chaos theory.
Australia has had the option of choosing the sex of a baby conceived by IVF available in some states for a while. They have recently made it illegal in NSW on the recommendation of an ethics committee there. People are complaining that this decision is unfair and they want to "balance the sex of their families". By allowing it here it opens the way for medical tourism from other countries where it is illegal. By the way, Australia and the UK have a reciprocal health care policy so Aussies could get IVF on the NHS here. Moral issues aside, why should an already belaboured health care system have added pressures?
We in the western world with western culture could probably be trusted to use this technology wisely. In other cultures, including some here in the UK, it will be abused terribly. For this reason it must be stopped except in medical cases.
Paul Beckett, London, UK
Everyone seems to be forgetting that IVF treatment is not natural in itself. Why the fuss over gender selection? Surely the percentage of IVF babies versus natural babies cannot affect the balance of a population.
I'm currently going through IVF and I think I speak for others in saying that the process is so emotionally exhausting and full of the possibility of failure that choosing the sex of the baby is the last thing on our minds. Getting healthy embryos that will implant is such a massive achievement in itself, I for one won't care whether it's a boy or a girl.
Out of all the comments I have read on here, only one is for the idea of selecting the baby's sex. I don't believe in this as only time will tell when you can choose eye colour, looks, fitness etc. If there is a clear medical reason for choosing the sex then fine. But apart from that no we should not go down that road.
Peter Slack, Rayleigh, UK
Since it is no problem to undergo IVF, it shouldn't be any problem for potential parents to choose their baby's sex. Taking it a step forward, I think they should also have the choice of how many babies per IVF.
Wilfred Winn, Jarkaken, Liberia
The child you have should be loved exactly the same, no matter what the sex. This idea is going back to the days when kings killed their daughters, because they wanted a male heir to the throne. The MPs that have suggested this should get on with the real issues that are much more important for us.
Tim Coote, Bilbao, Spain
I am in the process of an IVF cycle and I am shocked at some of the comments being made - mostly I assume by people who are lucky enough to conceive naturally. This is turning into a fertility treatment witch hunt. How dare people comment on something they know little about? I can't imagine that anyone would go through an IVF cycle if they didn't need to. It is a most unpleasant procedure.
My wife and I have recently been blessed with a beautiful daughter, and if was possible we would like our next child to be a boy. I cannot see how giving parents the chance to balance their families can have any sort of detrimental effect on society. The sex of the first child can be decided by nature/God and the second by science/man.
This all has to do with what people want children for. If it is to have a commodity or a fashion accessory then I can see why choosing a child's sex would be relevant. If there is a cultural preference for boys based upon financial or marital value to the family then choosing sex would be relevant. Both attitudes are abhorrent to me and do not allow for the equal value of both sexes and the rights of the individual baby to be brought up as a unique person, not as an appendage. I say sex should only be chosen on strictly medical grounds and never for social reasons.
Vince, Coventry, UK
Why should IVF couples have this choice? Nobody else has it, let nature take its course.
Francis Maguire, Thrapston, Northamptonshire
If this did go through surely it is only a matter of time before we would have cases going through the courts with people who are not having IVF and wanting to choose their child's sex.
J Revell, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Choose sex now - what next? Couples should only be allowed to choose the sex of a baby where there are clear medical reasons for doing so. Otherwise such choice is simply a designer baby scenario and that is abhorrent.
Donald, T Wells, Kent
First it's the child's sex, then what? Eye colour, height, IQ, personality? Will it not be long before we are breeding two-dimensional drones? Whatever happened to good old fashioned natural selection? Plus can you imagine the liability cases should the 'parent' not get what they asked for? There is no 28 day return guarantee with babies!
Lucy, Shrewsbury, UK
I fail to see why, in general, anyone should need to "choose" the sex of their child? I also think that allowing couples undergoing IVF to choose the sex of their child would result in couples who were able to conceive naturally going down the IVF route because they want to decide what they are having. My other thought is that what if they choose to have a boy and somehow they end up with a girl - I am sure mistakes will be made. I totally understand that if people have serious genetic problems within a certain sex that they should have this option but I do not see that other than for that there should be any need to choose the sex of your child.
It is vital that a healthy gender balance is preserved. If selection of gender is to be allowed, thorough research must be done into the choices parents are likely to make. A swing in either direction is completely unacceptable.
Hamish Malcolm, Cambridge, UK
This is madness, look at the problems that illegal sex selection is causing in China and India. This recommendation must be overturned.
John, Isleworth, UK
Having been through the trauma of IVF to conceive my daughter, I cannot imagine any parents enduring the ordeal simply to choose a baby's sex for social reasons. Every embryo is precious, and might just be the one that works. Let's not allow the pressure groups to whip up a frenzy about a non-existent problem.
IVF treatment has no place in the NHS, with limited funds such self indulgent treatments should be returned to private sector.
Nick Corbin, Exeter
This is seriously concerning. It should be a privilege to have a child, boy or girl. Never a right. Next we'll have lawsuits for when the scientists get it wrong - how mixed up can society get?
David Hogg, Glasgow, UK
I firmly believe that so-called 'playing God' is actually part of our natural evolution. In the future our children will be grown in tanks (because it will be safer than pregnancy and childbirth) and their lives will be measured in centuries not years. It's inevitable. All those that oppose such advances should ask themselves if they would refuse medical treatment on their 'God playing' principles.
Paul B, Preston, UK
If you are going through IVF to have a baby to save a sibling's life then I don't really have a problem with this. But if you are going through IVF as you cannot conceive naturally then you should not ever be allowed to choose your baby's sex. If it were me then I would be ecstatic at being able to have any baby, boy or girl, disabled or able-bodied I really wouldn't care. If you do care what sex your child is then you shouldn't be allowed to go through with any treatment, as far I am concerned you wouldn't be a fit parent.
So, on one hand we have people aborting children at 8 months because of a minor defect, we have young teenagers whose boyfriends should be imprisoned for statutory rape having abortions as they are under 16... and now we have couples needing IVF and a designer family - for that is what this is. Children are a privilege, not a right, and all children should be cherished. You have sex, you have a baby and I disagree very much with social abortions. If you can't cope with kids, don't have sex - or at least use protection! If you do, don't wait until you're 40 and need IVF. All children are a precious gift and we shouldn't treat them as consumer goods to be picked and haggled over like a new dress in a marketplace. This is something I hope very much does not go through as you do make children "failures" by not accepting them and this can damage the psyche of previous children, who are not the "right" gender. Knowing how disappointed my parents were that I was not a boy, I would not like to have a genetically-selected brother to be second best to as well as a non-existent one!
IVF parents should not be allowed to choose the sex of their children. All children are precious, regardless of sex. I would have thought any couple going through IVF treatment would be happy with a baby regardless of gender.
If there is a likelihood you may have a baby with a genetic condition or you don't conceive naturally the answer is simply don't plan to have a baby. Fertility treatment is tampering with nature in the same way that genetically modified crops are tampering with nature. I would prefer to see all the money spent on fertility treatment go towards keeping people alive, not creating unnatural beings.
So, not content with IVF treatment the suggestion is that parents can now decide not that they want a fit and healthy child but a boy or a girl. What happens if the foetus turns out not to be fit and healthy, will the IVF parents decide to abort? This is Professor Winston and his ilk playing God and goes against the laws of human nature.
Ken, Ipswich, UK
What a dangerous road we go down yet again. The consequences of which we will reap into the next generation, of imbalance between the population of males and females! Leave well alone!
Unfortunately, it's hard to tell when someone simply uses the possibility of ill health to justify not wanting a girl or boy. I do think genetic counselling is a good idea, but I fear the culture of commodifying babies.
Allie, North Carolina, USA
I do think that there is an element of playing 'God' with being able to choose the gender of a baby. If I was undergoing fertility treatment I'm sure I would be happy with a healthy baby irrelevant of its sex.
I don't think this proposal has been given careful thought and taken into account the fact that there are certain communities within Britain who, for traditional or cultural reasons, prefer boys over girls irrespective of the argument of "balancing the family". Generally, I am opposed to the implicit concept of tinkering with the natural ways of conceiving a child and I fail to see any reason why to have a boy or a girl would be so urgent and necessary so as to require external manipulation of embryonic eggs.
This is just a decline into a further abyss of humans. What happens if this affects the gene pool? Has anybody thought of that? Just because something is possible does not mean we should play around with it like some kind of new toy. Sorry but this has a lot of implications not just choosing someone's sex. In the end it is up to mother nature. It is also fair to say if we play around any more with the genetic code, then it is quite possible a pandemic like the aids virus will eventually surface and we will not be able to do anything about it. I am very interested in science, but as a father I do not think choosing the sex of your child can be a good thing in anybody's book.
If this is approved, I'm sure that the vast majority of couples undergoing IVF will still opt for their baby's sex to be left to chance/fate/God/whatever. However, some people might have always wanted a girl or a boy and this could be the only chance they'll get to have one. How could we deny that to anyone?
MC, Dorset, UK
We have an over populated planet, so nature ups the rate of infertile couples. So we give IVF. What will nature do if we create an imbalance in the sexes? I have one child - I only wanted one, a boy. I did have a boy. Would I have considered IVF to chose the sex if it had been available - no. What next - choose to rid our children of genetic conditions? My son is dyslexic and I still would never have tampered with genetics. Consider the list of influential people with genetic conditions - Albert Einstein (dyslexic), Stephen Hawkins, etc. Think about our world if these people had not been allowed to exist.
Pauline Yates, Suffolk
With the particular exception of avoiding certain congenital diseases, this feels like consumerism with children becoming commodities. If you want to pick the sex of your child through vanity, you've got some very strange priorities and I would question whether you've got the right attitude to be a good parent.
Mark Fulford, Southampton, UK
Let's not bring in the "let God choose" argument (not exactly a 100% record in the healthy baby department, regardless of sex). Overall, I can't see a problem with choosing sex in the UK context. On the basis that as many people would want boys as they would girls, how would that adversely affect the status quo? I could understand the objections if we are asking to specify aspects of a human, e.g. build, looks, athletic prowess, IQ, etc, but I really can't see the harm in a society where having a girl is not seen as a "failure" (unlike China). I think, however, that "sex" is as far as it should go unless there some good medical reason for selecting other specific attributes.
Pat Barrow, Norwich, UK
The balance of male to female is one thing that nature has got absolutely right; interfering with it will have disastrous consequences for society. Professor Winston grossly underestimates the desire of some religious couples to have male babies.
Lawrence Brown, Sheffield, UK
A disastrous idea. Let's go the whole hog and design every characteristic of the child - intelligence, looks, hair colour, likes and dislikes. Then let's create them in the image our free market society demands - perfect figures for both men and women. Those unfortunate enough to be born naturally should be ostracised for not fitting in. Extreme perhaps but this smacks of eugenics. A child is a gift and an individual for itself, whatever it is, not something to design like a new kitchen. If we lose sight of this fundamental difference it will have far reaching implications for how we view all human life.
Why not? It's not as if the method of conceiving the child is natural so why leave anything to nature? Perhaps God made us capable of such things for a reason....
Jennifer, Bristol, UK
The only justification for this would be on exceptional medical grounds - like to avoid haemophilia. You tamper with nature's randomness at humanity's peril.
David Ball, Wokingham, UK
As a pro-choice, anti-religious person I am shocked to find that I don't believe in choosing the gender of your child. I do support the use of new technology to prevent genetic abnormalities and ensure a healthier baby, but gender very rarely has an impact on the health of the child. Only in these cases should any intervention be made.
No. People should not be able to decide the sex of their child. We should not be playing god and just be happy that we have a child that is in good health.
Alina, Berkshire, UK
I think that parents should be allowed to choose the sex of their baby, especially if there have been genetic diseases in the family affecting only one sex, e.g. haemophilia, which affects only boys or some other congenital disease.
Fertility Treatment is one thing, but having a "tailor made" baby is another. Is it not enough to have the magical gift of a child?
Jaypee Cee, Birmingham, UK
The moral side of me says 'no', but the real world side says 'yes'. We live in a free market society. The technology exists to choose a baby's sex. There is no way we can now ignore that technology and hope it to go away. Therefore we must make sure use of such technology is under control and not allowed to be bought & sold 'underground'. By imposing controls we can then attempt to ensure that it's not allowed to skew nature. It's going to be a very tough task I'm afraid but there is little choice.
Rob Smith, London, UK
This is just the start of the slippery slope to designer babies. Within a couple decades parents will demand the right to choose other aspects of the new born.
T J Newman, Bournemouth UK
I await the first court case from couples able to conceive naturally demanding the right to IVF because they want to guarantee a boy or a girl.
Many of the arguments against choosing sex are good, but are overridden by the fact that banning never really works. Inevitably we will have to adjust to the reality of being able to choose. I have a daughter myself and if a choice had been available I would have had preferred a girl. The more wanted he child the better that child's life. will be.
Alex, London UK
Well, there we have it. Children are now consumer goods to be chosen at will. Do you think parents will be able to get a refund if they're unhappy with the way their child turns out?
Paul W, London, UK
Even being allowed to consider the sex of a baby in the UK would set a dangerous precedent, which would be abused. Remember that in certain countries/cultures the sex of a baby is seen as a blessing or a hindrance to a family.
Anish Chohan, Weybridge, Surrey
What next? Intelligence, sporting prowess, colour of hair. This will be the start of designer children.
What's the alternative? State interference? I really don't think so.
I don't understand why people should be allowed to choose the sex of their children - anyone who wants a child so much that they will ruin themselves to pay for it should be happy to have either sex. In my opinion IVF is too readily available as it is, this will just add to the problem. There are too many people out there who want 'a baby' and too few who want a child these days as it is.
Jennifer, Netherlands, ex-UK
If we start allowing people to choose what sex their child is going to be then we are opening up a whole can of worms. As technology advances people will then expect to be able to choose what colour hair their baby should have etc, etc. Why not let nature take its course?
I am just about to embark on a course of IVF in the next few months and I think I can safely say that most people undergoing fertility treatment just want to be parents. I don't think they really care about the sex of the baby. The treatment is traumatic enough without the public thinking it is all a science experiment.
No way ! In some religions a baby girl is viewed as a failure and in extreme cases they have gone missing completely so it's not a very clever idea. Also there are always headlines about how much more males earn at work compared to females so if people can choose I would expect most to choose male babies which upsets the whole balance of nature.
Neil D, B'ham UK