Medical Authorities fight off move to legalise 'designer babies'

Published: 21 April 2017

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Australian parents wanting to choose the gender of their baby will still have to go overseas to have the procedure, after the National Health and Medical Research Council has decided to uphold a ban on the practice of couples tailor making 'Designer Babies'.

As part of the ban, parents are not allowed to choose the sex of their baby for non-medical reasons as it’s been considered “unethical.”

The ban was upheld under revised 2017 guidelines on assisted reproductive technology (ART).

According to reports one in 25 women use ART to conceive.

"Sex selection techniques may be used to reduce the risk of transmission of a genetic condition, disease or abnormality that would severely limit the quality of life of the person who would be born, when there is evidence to support," the guidelines state.

It is understood a review of the guidelines began in 2007 with the Australian Health Ethics and Committee (AHEC) coming to the conclusion that it does not endorse, nor wish to perpetuate gender stereotypes.

However, they argued that there was little research into whether Australians support the use of gender selection procedures.

"AHEC agreed that Australian society needs to the ready both socially and politically and recommended further public debate and broad discussion of the issue," Chair of the AHEC Professor Ian Olver.

He clarified that each state and territory could legislate regarding ART for sex-selection on non-medical grounds, but it could be appealed by the government. 

And while most agree the procedure is unethical, fertility specialist Mark Bowman believes otherwise.

"Sex selection, particularly for the purposes of family balancing, can be consistent with the responsible exercise of reproductive choice and the formation of a family," he said.

The practice is banned by legislation in both Victoria and Western Australia.