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Gender stereotypes not good enough to support embryo gender selection

A recent paper published in the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry fully supports the updated Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) guidelines to not support the use of sex selection techniques for non-medical purposes.

Dr Tamara Kayali Browne, a lecturer in health ethics and professionalism at Deakin University, who wrote the paper, believes that: “Professional organisations and policymakers like the NHMRC should stand for evidence-based policy which promotes rather than undermines gender equality, and which promotes rather than undermines autonomy.”

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) release of their revised Ethical guidelines on the use of assisted reproductive technology in clinical practice and research, 2017 (ART guidelines) maintained their advice that in Australia parents can only select the sex of their embryo if it is to prevent the transmission of a serious genetic condition.

The reasons are clear, Dr Browne believes.

“The evidence currently available has not succeeded in showing that the gender traits and inclinations sought are caused by a ‘male brain’ or a ‘female brain’,” Dr Browne said.

“Sex selection is not merely a symptom of gender essentialism but serves to perpetuate it.”

The ART guidelines provide contemporary ethical guidance and framework for the conduct of ART in the clinical setting and was overseen by the Australian Health Ethics Committee (AHEC), with advice from an expert working committee to oversee a number of complex ethical issues including sex selection for non-medical purposes and surrogacy.

The AHEC notes in the report that Victorian and Western Australian legislation currently prohibits sex selection for non-medical purposes.

All other jurisdictions are silent on the issue. The report expresses support for states and territories to enact uniform legislation

Meredith Horne