Sex Selection: Choice and Responsibility in Human Reproduction

This response is submitted on behalf of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC), which is currently composed of 465 churches in the UK, with a total personal membership of 21,500, and regular Sunday morning congregations of 32,000 men, women and children.  This response also articulates the views of the vast majority of the estimated 1.25 million evangelical Christians throughout the UK.

We wish to preface our response with two comments:
First, we find it impossible to respond to the Consultation Questionnaire without making some initial remarks about the basis of our response.  That is, our worldview has been developed within an historic and strong ethical framework, rather than as a series of pragmatic reactions to each new bioethical issue.  Without some understanding of our ethical foundations, the superstructure, and in particular, this response, makes little sense.

Second, we find it difficult to respond to the Consultation Questionnaire alone because the wording of some of the questions is not without prejudice – they convey unwarranted presuppositions.  Furthermore, merely ‘ticking boxes’, though undoubtedly helpful for statisticians, masks serious caveats and blurs the finer, yet important, aspects of our response to some of the questions.  Therefore we welcome the opportunity given by the HFEA to respond in a more extended format.

Our ‘historic and strong ethical framework’ is derived from the Judaeo-Christian doctrines, that is to say, the moral principles of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.  These have served, together with the Hippocratic Oath, as the principal founding and continuing bases of Western medical ethics and practice.  They have kept medicine safe, wholesome and beneficial for over 2000 years.  We see no reason to apologise for continuing in that tradition.

From this ethical framework, seven matters follow:
We consider that all human life is made ‘in the image of God’ (Genesis 1:27) and therefore has an inherent value, dignity and significance.  Hence, we do not support any practice that results in the deliberate destruction of innocent human life, from conception to natural death.

2] We maintain that God gives us our children, not as property, but in stewardship (Psalm 127:3-5).  All such gifts are to be received with gratitude, not with grumbling. Parents are to nurture, not design and control their children.  The relatively recent concept of ‘unbalanced families’ smacks of unseemly consumerism.

3] We believe that sin has badly affected us all (Romans 3:23).  Hence, we recognize that we are all, to greater or lesser degrees, mentally, physically and spiritually handicapped, or disabled.  Therefore, we are opposed to any action that discriminates against any human life on the grounds of such disabilities.

4] We are certainly not opposed to medical and scientific progress.  Indeed, Christians have, over the centuries, often been the motivating personnel within these disciplines.  Nevertheless, we are adamant that the implementation of any such advances are made cautiously, and within a strong and coherent ethical framework.

5] We are opposed to both IVF and, more pertinently, PGD (see, the FIEC’s submission to the HFEA/ACGT Consultation, March 2000), primarily because it inevitably results in the deliberate destruction of human embryos, and it is motivated by a eugenic view of the disabled.

6] We are not opposed to sperm sorting as a scientific technique, per se.  Even though this technique leads to the destruction of sperm, this is entirely different from the destruction of human embryos – sperm (and ova) will only ever be gametic material, whereas human embryos are already real, live human beings.

7] We are, nevertheless, concerned about what sperm sorting will lead to.  We recognize the slippery slope of many modern bioethical issues.  The contrast between the original intentions and the current practices of the 1967 Abortion Act or the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act illustrates our fears.  Sperm sorting has the potential, even the probability, to lead to excessive control of human reproduction, discrimination against the disabled, destruction of human embryos of the ‘wrong’ sex, denigration of conventional family structures, diminution of unconditional love for a child, and prejudice against girls.  In addition, if permitted, it will encourage further calls for choices of other characteristics of putative children.  Human dignity and value will be yet further undermined.

We therefore call upon the HFEA to:
Ban all further usage of sperm sorting procedures, regardless of whether they are clinically safe or not.  They represent another unwelcome trend in assisted reproductive techniques. It is a step in the wrong direction.

B] Review its rationale for the use of PGD, both with, and without, sperm sorting.

C] Recognize the impossibility of classifying medical conditions as either ‘serious’ or ‘non-serious’, as well as their separation into ‘medical’ and ‘non-medical’.  This is reducing life and death issues to subjectivity and semantics.

D] Develop a stronger ethical framework in order to resolve this and future bioethical issues.  When simple utility and cost-effectiveness are the major determinants of such issues, we all become a little less human.

E] Encourage more research into ethically-acceptable, proper treatments and cures, such as some forms of somatic gene therapy.

F] Promote a greater acceptance and care of those with genetic diseases, as well as more financial and practical support for their families.

We sincerely hope that the HFEA will grasp this opportunity and create a notable watershed in the application of procedures in assisted human reproduction by banning all forms of sperm sorting.


The Consultation Questionnaire

Each question has the choice of ‘Agree’ or ‘Disagree’, plus a (very) small space for ‘Reasons’.  Responses are given in CAPITALS simply to the reader see them more easily.

1. Sperm sorting should be regulated in the United Kingdom by the HFEA.


See, 4], 7], A] AND D] above.  Furthermore, in the light of recent events, we are not convinced that the HFEA is a body capable of regulating several aspects within its current remit.

2. The use of sperm sorting should be permitted only when its reliability and absence of risk to health have been satisfactorily established.


SEE, 6], 7] AND A] ABOVE.

3. The use of sperm sorting should be permitted in sex selection for medical reasons if the people seeking treatment request it.


SEE, 7], A], C], E] AND F] ABOVE.

4. The use of sperm sorting should be permitted in sex selection for non-medical reasons.



5. The use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) should be permitted for selecting the sex of offspring for non-medical reasons.  (It is already available for medical reasons).



6. It would be preferable to combine sperm sorting with preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) when selecting the sex of offspring for medical reasons (rather then using either technique singly).


SEE, 3], 5], 6], 7], A], B], C], E] AND F] ABOVE.

7. Sex selection (by either sperm sorting or PGD) should be permitted for non-medical reasons when a family has at least two children of one sex and none of the other sex.


SEE, 1], 2], 5], 6], 7], A], B] AND C] ABOVE.

8. Sex selection (by either sperm sorting or PGD) should be permitted for non-medical reasons other than family balancing.


SEE, 5], 6], 7], A], B], C] AND D] ABOVE.


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