Sex SelectionEmbryo and the Law

Sex selection is defined as “the choice of the gender of an embryo before fertilisation occurs, or to the identification of the gender of an already existing embryo” (Warnock 1985).

Selection prior to pregnancy (in comparison with the older method of postimplantation sex selection whereby a pregnancy could be terminated if the foetus were found to be of the undesired sex) mainly comprises of with preconception or preimplantation sex selection.

Preconception sex selection or ‘sperm sorting’ involves the sorting of sperm according to whether they bear an ‘X’ or ‘Y’ chromosome. The sperm of the desired chromosome can then be used for conception of a baby of the desired sex.

Preimplantation sex selection involves the use if preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to determine the sex of an embryo prior to its implantation in the uterus.

Sperm sorting was first used in the early 1990s with a clinic offering the technology opening in London in 1993. Around a similar time, a couple in the USA used the technique to conceive a baby girl in order to avoid the deadly X-linked disorder of hydrocephalus.

Other conditions presently tested for include haemophilia and Duchenne muscular dystrophy.