2 SEX SELECTION
Sex selection refers to the use of medical technology to identify and, in turn, choose the sex of one’s offspring.
Different sex selection technologies operate at distinct stages of the reproductive process. Ultrasounds, chorionic villus sampling and amniocentesis operate at the foetal stage of the reproductive process. These technologies identify the sex of a foetus, allowing patients to choose whether to continue with the pregnancy or to undergo a sex selective abortion. Preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) operates at the embryonic stage of the reproductive process. This technology determines the genetic sex of an embryo created by in vitro fertilisation (IVF), enabling patients to then choose whether or not to implant that embryo. Finally, sperm sorting techniques, which separate female (X-chromosome) sperm from male (Y-chromosome) sperm, facilitate sex selection at the pre-fertilisation stage of the reproductive process. Each sex selection technique raises subtly different ethical and regulatory issues. This article will focus on sex selection at the embryonic stage using PGT, as described above, and the specific issues it raises.
The technologies used in embryonic sex selection are expensive. According to IVF Australia, the upfront cost of an IVF cycle is $9,290; following Medicare rebates, the out-of-pocket cost of the first IVF cycle is approximately $4,501, with each subsequent cycle estimated to cost $3,945. PGT costs $700 per embryo and does not attract a Medicare rebate. Given these high costs, the accessibility of embryonic sex selection is a matter that predominantly affects middle to upper socio-economic classes.