Baby Sex Selection Banned in the UK

The United Kingdom will ban baby sex selection under a sweeping set of changes to health care regulation.

Sex selection of babies for non-medical reasons is set to be outlawed in the UK under Government plans for a shake-up of embryology regulation. Health Minister Caroline Flint told MPs she was minded to introduce a “clear and specific ban” on the use of new techniques to choose one gender of baby. Allowing parents to pick sex for reasons such as “balancing” the make-up of their family could be the start of a “slippery slope” to designer babies, she warned. But the ban would not prevent British people going abroad where such practices were legal, she accepted.

I’m honestly not sure how this would be enforced. Abortion on demand is a reality in the UK. Women can kill their babies early in pregnancy just for the hell of it. But they can’t do it because they wanted a girl? Hmm.

    Doctor: Ultrasound shows that you’ve got a healthy boy!

    Patient: Crap! I wanted a girl. Kill it.

    Doctor: Sorry, new regulations prevent me from killing your baby for sex selection reasons.

    Patient: Uh, I think having a baby at present would inconvenience my lifestyle.

    Doctor: One abortion, coming up!

Perhaps I’m missing something here . . . .

Note: Technically, a second doctor would have to agree, under terms of the Abortion Act of 1967, that “the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman greater than if the pregnancy were terminated” or that “the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of any existing child(ren) of the family of the pregnant woman.” This, however, is mere technicality given that these conditions always obtain.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Quinn says:

    Comparing abortions and the sex selection that this article discusses is like comparing apes and ants: there’s just not that much in common there.

    Sex selection, in the context of this article, takes place in fertility clinics, prior to conception. It generally involves separating out “girl sperm” (sperm carrying the X-chromosome) from “boy sperm” (sperm carrying the Y-chromosome) via centrafuge techniques, as the X-chromosome is heavier than the Y-chromosome. The technicians are then able to fertilize eggs from the mother with whatever sperm matches the sex of the child that is desired. This is one of the benefits of modern technology that can help parents have healthy children, even if one or both parents are carrying sex-linked genetic diseases.

    The Health Minister in the article you quoted is proposing a ban on using these techniques to select the sex of a child based on preference solely. It has nothing to do with abortion.

    There’s a pretty big difference between choosing the sex of a child prior to conception and choosing to abort a child solely because the sex of the child wasn’t desired.