Sex selection for social reasons unlikely to skew gender balance in Germany and UK

Allowing sex selection for social reasons would be highly unlikely to skew the gender balance at least in Germany and the UK according to new research published today (Thursday 25 September) in Europe's leading reproductive medicine journal Human Reproduction[1].

Surveys of more than 1,000 men and women in each country did reveal differences between the two countries, with the British expressing stronger gender preferences and the Germans being more relaxed about the sex of their children. The UK respondents were also much keener than the Germans on the idea of using reproductive technology to choose the sex of their babies.

But, as more than two thirds of the British expressed a wish to have an equal number of boys and girls anyway, the researchers concluded that these preferences would prevent any gender imbalances from happening in the UK if sex selection for social reasons is ever allowed.[2]

Lead investigator Dr Edgar Dahl, a bioethics specialist and research fellow at the Medical Center of the University of Giessen in Germany, said preconception sex selection for non-medical reasons raised serious moral, legal and social issues. The main concern was based on the assumption that a freely available sex selection service would distort the natural sex ratio. But, for a severe gender imbalance to occur there would have to be two conditions met a significant preference for children of a particular sex and a considerable demand for preconception sex selection.

The researchers used a randomised computer assisted telephone interview system to question representative samples of the German and UK populations 1,094 men and women aged 18 to 45 in Germany and 1,001 men and women aged 18 and older in the UK.

In Germany (excluding the small percentage of undecided):

  • 58% said they did not care about the sex of their children,
  • 30% said they wanted an equal number of boys and girls,
  • 4%

Contact: Margaret Willson
European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology

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