A Victorian couple with three sons are asking VCAT to allow them to select the gender of their next child. The couple are desperate for a girl after they had a baby girl who died a few days after birth. The Herald Sun reports:
[The couple] are asking the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to allow them to choose the sex of their next child in a test case, and give them the opportunity to have the daughter they were denied.
An independent panel, known as the Patient Review Panel, recently rejected the couple’s bid to choose the sex of their next child using IVF.
They have gone to the tribunal to have the decision overturned. The tribunal recently ruled it had the power to review a decision made by the Patient Review Panel.
The tribunal will hear the couple’s case in March.
So determined is the couple to have a girl that recently they terminated twin boys, conceived through IVF.
They said it had been a traumatic decision to make but they could not continue to have unlimited numbers of children.
If their bid to have a daughter fails they say they will go to the US so they can conceive a girl.
The couple, who cannot be identified, conceived their three boys naturally.
The woman – in her thirties – says she loves her sons but would do anything to have a daughter.
“After what we have been through we think we are due for a bit of luck,” the man said.
“We want to be given the opportunity to have a girl. We know we definitely won’t be replacing her in any way, but want the chance to have the baby girl we don’t have.”
Section 28 of the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008 (Vic) bans parents from selecting the gender of an embryo:
(1) A person carrying out a treatment procedure must not use gametes or an embryo, or perform the procedure in a particular way, with the purpose or a purpose of producing or attempting to produce a child of a particular sex.
Penalty: 240 penalty units or 2 years imprisonment or both.
(2) Subsection (1) does not apply if -
(a) it is necessary for the child to be of a particular sex so as to avoid the risk of transmission of a genetic abnormality or a genetic disease
to the child; or
(b) the Patient Review Panel has otherwise approved the use of the gametes or embryo for the purpose or a purpose of producing or attempting to produce a child of a particular sex.
I presume that these provisions were enacted to prevent parents from preferencing gametes of one gender. In some cultures there is a very strong bias towards having a male child (eg, in some cultures in China and India). An Indian friend told me that he and his wife were banned from finding out the gender of their child before she was born because India is trying to prevent the abortion of female foetuses.
Of course, I am lucky enough to have had a child of each gender naturally. I never really minded which gender my children were, and did not have a strong preference. I still found out what gender they were before they were born because I’m insanely curious, and it reduced 50% of the names list immediately. I feel very sorry for the couple having lost a daughter, and I understand that if one has had three sons and lost a daughter, the desire to have a daughter would be very great.
Still, I can’t help feeling deeply uncomfortable about this story. I have a friend who has been trying to conceive a child via IVF (no success yet, but my love and prayers are with her). She would love to have a child, whatever the gender. It has been a gruelling and awful process for her. I simply can’t imagine how she would feel at this story. It just seems so selfish when the couple already has three other healthy children.
On the other hand, on a pragmatic level, I wouldn’t want this couple to keep trying to conceive children and aborting male foetuses, so perhaps it would be better to let them have a female foetus implanted. But would it open up the floodgates for others to argue they wanted to select the gender of their child via IVF? Sometimes technology makes life easier, but sometimes it also makes the ethical questions in life so much harder…