British couples can choose baby's sex in US clinic
Progress Educational Trust06 September 2009
A fertility clinic in the USA has revealed that it provides sex selection to many British couples who pay large amounts of money to travel and receive the service.
Jeffrey Steinberg opened his clinic in Manhattan, New York, in January of this year and claims that over half of the embryos currently undergoing pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) for ‘family balancing', as it has become known, are British.
‘Britain were the innovators but now they've got handcuffs on. From a medical standpoint, it's a travesty' says Steinberg.
The procedure is currently banned in the UK except for use in screening for genetic diseases such as muscular dystrophy and haemophilia, which usually only affect boys. Each proposed use of PGD must be granted by the British regulatory body, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).
Using PGD for this purpose was banned in the 2008 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act after a public consultation in 2003 revealed 80 per cent of the British public objected to the idea.
The HFEA have warned couples thinking of travelling abroad to receive this service to take time to explore the implications. ‘In the US there is no official regulator. Those who go overseas should make themselves aware of the laws and what impact there may be on any child that is born', said a spokesperson.
The procedure involves the extraction of a single cell from embryos created by in vitro fertilisation (IVF). The sex chromosomes in the cell are then found and examined to reveal whether the embryo is male or female. The desired sex of embryo is then implanted into the womb.
Pro-life groups in the USA have condemned the destruction of the embryos found not to be the desired sex.
The cost of receiving PGD in the USA is a big boost for the medical business; it has been estimated at £20,000 after procedures, travel and hotels.
David Karabinns of ‘The Genetics and IVF Institute' in Virginia, USA, who were among the first clinics to offer PGD for family balancing, said: ‘Just as there was an overreaction about IVF, there will be a gradual acceptance as we prove it's safe'. Most US clinics will only treat parents who already have a child of the opposite sex.
Critics of family balancing fear that it will lead to a cultural bias toward one gender and earlier this year the Pope attacked what he called, ‘the obsessive search for the perfect child'.
Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.