12.11.03

Selecting the sex of a child is to be banned in the UK after a consultation exercise found the public outraged by the idea.

A Guardian article on the decision of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (the agency in charge or regulating fertility treatment).

Exceptions will be made for families where one gender would risk inheriting a serious genetic disorder such as haemophilia and Duchenne muscular dystrophy, but so-called "family balancing" will not be allowed, which will inevitably drive some parents to those countries (e.g. the United States) where sex selection is allowed.

There are two problems with this decision:

ONE - as transhumanists, we believe that "parents must be allowed to choose for themselves whether to reproduce, how to reproduce, and what technological methods they use in their reproduction. The use of genetic medicine or embryonic screening to increase the probability of a healthy, happy, and multiply talented child is a responsible and justifiable application of parental reproductive freedom. [...] Only in extreme and unusual cases might state infringement of procreative liberty be justified. If, for example, a would-be parent wished to undertake a genetic modification that would be clearly harmful to the child or would drastically curtail its options in life, then this prospective parent should be prevented by law from doing so." (from the Transhumanist FAQ, Version 2.0)
Sex selection and "family balancing" should not be considered to be extreme and unusual cases.

TWO - The HFEA justifies its decision by saying that the strength of public opinion on the subject left them little choice. However, no evidence that the practice of sex selection would be harmful to society has been presented, and this is what makes the HFEA's decision unacceptable. In an open society, majority-rule should not be allowed to regulate some aspect of individual conduct without a clear demonstration of the threat it poses to society. Sadly, the HFEA's decision is instead based on the general public's knee-jerk, "yuk factor" response to a new technology.

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