The United Kingdom's Human Fertilisation and Embryology
Authority (HFEA) recently announced that it has initiated a
public consultation on sex selection. The consultation covers
all three types of sex selection: 1) pre-natal testing and termination
of pregnancy, 2) pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and selection
of embryos (PGD), and 3) sperm sorting-the selection of sperm
carrying either an X or Y chromosome.
The HFEA does not currently allow PGD for non-medical
sex selection. No legislation in the UK addresses sperm sorting,
and UK fertility clinics are now marketing it to Indian communities
there. The HFEA is considering three options: that sperm sorting
be banned, be allowed but regulated, or be allowed to continue
In the United States, no federal laws or regulations
cover sex selection. Sperm sorting is increasingly being commercially
advertised. Some US fertility clinics openly advertise the use
of PGD for non-medical sex selection, in spite of widespread
condemnation of this practice. Ethnically targeted marketing
of sex selection also takes place in the US.
Human Genetics Alert, a nonprofit public interest
organization based in London, is organizing a campaign to encourage
the HFEA to strengthen its opposition to non-medical sex selection.
As its background statement explains, permitting parents to
choose the sex of a future child on the grounds of "preference"
would make it far more difficult to draw lines against genetic
modification to select or engineer children for characteristics
such as appearance and IQ.
Although far from perfect, the UK regulatory system
is often regarded as a good model for regulation of reproductive
technologies. The results of the current consultation could
set an important precedent. Sex selection is an issue of global
concern, and the HFEA is likely to take the views of non-UK
citizens into account.
We urge you to visit Human Genetics Alert's web site at http://www.hgalert.org/whatsnew/
for more information on sex selection and the HFEA consultation,
and for an electronic postcard to the HFEA to express your views
on sex selection.