Sunday Mail - Body and Soul - - REPORT -

cho­sen em­bryos are then re­turned to the womb. Two weeks later, the woman does a fer­til­ity test to see whether the treat­ment has been suc­cess­ful. If the woman be­comes preg­nant, there is a 99.9 per cent chance she will have a child of the de­sired gen­der.

The treat­ment is not cheap. In the US it costs from $17,000, and in Thai­land it starts at $10,000, not in­clud­ing the price of flights, ac­com­mo­da­tion and fer­til­ity drugs.

Dr Jef­frey Stein­berg, who runs the Fer­til­ity In­sti­tutes in the US, has treated more than 100 Aus­tralian couples. One woman re­turned seven times un­til she be­came preg­nant.

Dr Stein­berg says: “There is a tremen­dous drive that we see in some couples to bal­ance their fam­ily.”

Off­shore treat­ment

Cas­san­dra Italia, di­rec­tor of Global Health Travel, which spe­cialises in fa­cil­i­tat­ing sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures in Asia, says 10 Aus­tralian couples a month cur­rently travel to Malaysia or Thai­land with her com­pany for gen­der se­lec­tion, and two a day call to find out how to do it.

Ear­lier this year, a Mel­bourne cou­ple were so des­per­ate for a girl they aborted twin boys as they al­ready had three sons. The Vic­to­rian Civil and Ad­min­is­tra­tive Tri­bunal de­nied them the right to un­dergo PGD and they are now con­sid­er­ing treat­ment in the US.

Pro­fes­sor Gab Ko­vacs, from Monash IVF in Vic­to­ria, thinks the cur­rent gen­der-se­lec­tion guide­lines should be changed.

He says: “The ques­tion we need to ask is why should it be il­le­gal? I don’t think it should be en­cour­aged, but I can’t see a rea­son why it should be pro­hib­ited. I can’t see why it should be il­le­gal if you can af­ford to pay for it.

“A na­tion­wide poll we have just done on gen­der se­lec­tion shows that only 20 per cent of peo­ple sup­port it. But it is be­cause peo­ple don’t re­ally un­der­stand it.” *

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