Cyprus has been a sex selection destination for British couples who want to get pregnant without legal troubles in the UK, but a recent Daily Mail story on Turkish Cypriot IVF clinics is raising additional legal and ethical questions.
According to Daily Mail, British couples consult with a number of health centres who work with In-Vitro Fertilization clinics around the world, including Cyprus, in order to guarantee the sex of a child during pregnancy.
But gender selection is illegal and doctors risk of prosecution in the UK.
Two DM reporters, who recently posed as a couple, approached an IVF centre in the north where they discovered they could select the sex of their baby without any medical reason whatsoever. The clinic representative told the couple that authorities would not mind “family balancing” in the process, according to the Daily Mail.
Proponents say people should have the freedom to choose the sex of their babies, while opponents say technology has gone too far
Couples from around the world have been searching and posting for years online on possible destinations for sex selection, including Cyprus, Crete, and Dubai. The list also includes US and EU destinations but laws have been toughened over the years due to ethical and moral issues.
In the south, sex selection only for genetic reasons
In the south, in the Republic of Cyprus, sex selection without a genetic reason is illegal based on EU law. There are also age restrictions with the maximum allowable age for an IVF set firmly at 50.
The oldest British woman to give birth to triplets, Sharon Cutts, made headlines in Britain when two years ago, at age 55, she gave birth to triplets. Although it was reported she had gone through the process on the island, it was never clarified whether she had gone through the process in the north or in the south.
Restrictions in the north are not based on actual age but primarily on the fitness of the mother and associated health risks, according to website comments by industry officials in the north.
In the north, family planning also acceptable
Couples visiting Turkish Cypriot IVF clinics are reportedly being advised that genetic reasons as well as family balancing are two factors where sex selection would not draw attention from the authorities.
Assisted reproductive technology in the north can address a number of concerns including a family wanting to have a boy after having two girls or vice versa, according to industry officials. Families from other cultures also approach the IVF centres in order to plan for a specific sex for the baby due to cultural reasons or social preferences. Most Indian and Chinese families consistently show preference for boys, while British couples have typically sought a baby girl, according to experts.
Besides ethical issues of meddling with mother nature, there are also legal consequences for sex selection. A British doctor, who is an NHS consultant, was quoted as saying that his bosses would have a ‘heart attack’ if he was engaged in sex selection on British soil.
In the UK, a healthy woman with no known fertility problems would not qualify for IVF treatment on the NHS unless specific conditions were met. But, at least for now, sex selection in the northern part of Cyprus appears to be an open secret due to the division of the island and lack of EU laws.
Proponents of gender selection say people should have the fundamental freedom to choose the sex of their babies, while opponents raise moral objections saying technology has gone too far.
The cost of gender selection in the north could run up to €8000 and would require staying on the island for a period of time.