By David Alton
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has launched yet another public consultation. This one is entitled “Sex Selection: Choice and Responsibility in Human Reproduction” and examines the sex selection of babies for non-medical or social reasons.
The last public consultation on sex selection was held in 1993. Sex selection for social reasons was firmly rejected. Why we are being consulted on this subject again? Like the recent Irish referendum, if the establishment don’t like the answer you give the first time they’ll keep coming back until you agree with them. The thought police are hoping that the public will give their approval this time.
Sex selection using preconception sperm sorting, although not currently as reliable as pre-implantation testing, avoids embryo creation and destruction. However, whilst the creation and destruction of embryos is subject to regulatory control under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, preconception techniques are not subject to any control. If they were to be regulated, this would therefore require an extension of present legislation.
The official line is that this consultation was launched at the initiative of the Department of Health. Can it really be the case that the Health Secretary Alan Milburn and his officials, with all the pressing problems of the NHS, woke up one morning and suddenly thought to themselves, “We must have a consultation on the application of the new reproductive technologies for sex selection”?
Rather, it is the discredited HFEA that is the catalyst for this consultation as it seeks to expand its power and influence over the new reproductive technologies. The commodification of human reproduction continues apace, fuelled by the eugenic and utilitarian philosophies of the HFEA. These are betrayed in the questionnaire at the end of the consultation document when respondents are asked to identify themselves in a category entitled “pro-life” – no doubt for ease of processing responses (into the bin). There is no corresponding category entitled “pro-death”.
The consultation document says that the purpose of the consultation is to “seek the views of the public concerning under what circumstances sex selection should be available to those seeking treatment and whether any new legal provisions should be put in place to regulate it”. Hasn’t the HFEA jumped the gun here? Surely the purpose of the consultation in the first instance should be to ascertain whether or not the public considers it ever appropriate to authorise sex selection for social reasons.
No doubt we will be assured that the practice of “family balancing” will not be employed in the UK for frivolous reasons, just as we were told that the Abortion Act would not lead to abortion on demand. I shudder to think what impact this latest British export will have in societies like China and India where a preference for boys over girls is already creating severe social imbalances. Newly released statistics show that the imbalance between girls and boys in India is getting worse. Among Indian children under six, there are now only 927 girls for every 1,000 boys, while in New Delhi itself the situation is even worse with only 865 girls for every 1,000 boys under six!
Is it too much to hope that the Women’s Movement might see where this gender-loaded and gender-driven agenda is taking us? Probably. But you can do something. Put pen to paper and write to the HFEA and to your MP rejecting the use of sex selection techniques for social reasons.