Couples having IVF (in vitro fertilisation) treatment should be able to choose the sex of their babies, New Zealand's advisory Bioethics Council told the government.
Sex selection is currently illegal in New Zealand, where it can be punished with a five-year prison sentence, and in Britain, Australia, India and a number of other countries. But it is allowed in the United States.
The government is currently working on guidelines to govern testing of embryos created outside the womb, known as pre-implementation genetic diagnosis (PGD).
The report, entitled "Who Gets Born?" said there was not enough reason to prohibit the use of pre-implantation testing of embryos for sex selection.
The Bioethics Council chairman, associate professor Martin Wilkinson, said that most people thought of IVF as simply enabling couples with fertility problems to have a child.
But access to PGD meant people who did not have fertility problems could decide to use IVF for different reasons, he said.
"Considerations in pre-birth testing are not only medical. They touch on cultural, spiritual and ethical issues."
Not weird fashion-driven decisions
Wilkinson told Radio New Zealand that people who already had a number of boys and wanted a girl should be able to select a female embryo.
Or couples who had a son or daughter that was killed might want another child of the same sex.
"Now these aren't weird fashion-driven decisions," he said. "These seem like sensible reasons.
"The decisions about whether to have tests, what to do with the information, whether to continue with the pregnancy or not, these decisions ultimately should rest with the parents."
The council's recommendations are based on a year's research in which 700 interested people were questioned on their views. – (Sapa-dpa)
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