The Australian Government is currently carrying out a public consultation on the guidelines for assisted reproduction practices at in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) clinics, conducted by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). This consultation is being supervised by the Australian Health Ethics Committee (AHEC) and by a working group specialized in assisted reproduction technology.

In particular the committee was questioned as to whether couples applying for IVF should be allowed to choose the sex of their future child by sorting embryos prior to implantation in the womb. Ian Olver, the NHMRC president is in favour of such practice. This kind of selection is already allowed in Australia but only in cases where a sex-linked genetic illness risks to be transmitted. Now more and more Australians want to decide the sex of their future baby and go to foreign MAP (Medically Assisted Procreation) centers where this is practiced.

For Bob Phelps, member of the ethics and genetics group, this development is questionable. He declared:

“Even if the parents can decide a whole range of things for their children, I don’t think their sex should be a part of those options at the present time. In a larger context, one can see the problems caused in India and in China, for example, where the number of young men is now much greater than the number of young women.”

Apart from this question of sex selection, other questions in the public consultation which ends on September 17th include payment for ovocyte donation, and the creation of a national ovocyte bank.