The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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UK push for gender pick

London, March 21: Parents in Britain should be allowed to choose the sex of their unborn child, a group of influential MPs will recommend this week.

A report by the all-party Commons science and technology committee will say parents having fertility treatment should have the right to decide the sex of the embryo to be implanted.

A member of the committee said 'There is very little evidence that allowing parents to choose the sex of their child would have any imbalancing effect on society.

'That might be the case in, for instance, China, but we have seen no evidence that it would here and unless someone comes up with that evidence we don't see why parents' choice should be restricted.'

It is understood that leading members of the committee feel far too many decisions have been taken by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the government watchdog in charge of regulating fertility treatment.

'We need a scientific debate, based on the evidence,' the MP said. 'It is no way to run such an important part of people's lives by relying on government regulation and taking cases through the courts.

'We have been looking at how burning subjects can be regulated by listening to professionals and ethicists, but without taking sides. We should not be so judgmental and we should consider much more what parents and clinicians think.'

The report, Human Reproductive Technologies and the Law, is due out on Thursday and committee members have admitted it will be 'radical'.

One said: 'We have asked 'why' and 'why not' and where necessary, recommended changes in the law.'

Another said: 'There has been a lot of emotional and religious involvement which may not be appropriate. There must be evidence for these arguments.

'There has not been enough evidence-gathering, and far too much emotional response ' science and medicine need to become a bigger part.

'There is an argument that physical characteristics are in any case chosen when you choose your partner.'

The report maintains that 'parents rather than the state must be assumed to be the right decision-makers for their families'.

But the committee is split over the recommendations with a minority of MPs arguing that the report has not taken enough account of ethical considerations.

Dr Ian Gibson, the Norwich North Labour MP who heads the committee, said 'This is the result of a lot of work. We have heard a number of exaggerated versions and believe we have taken a balanced attitude in the report.'

Lord Winston, professor at the department for reproductive medicine at Hammersmith Hospital said: 'In vitro fertilisation is too complicated, too expensive and too involved for parents just wanting to choose the sex of their baby.'

Another of the controversial elements is the committee's contention that parents undergoing fertility treatment should be allowed to choose 'disease-free' embryos.

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