In Australia, the National Health and Medical Research Council has banned the use of assisted reproductive technology for social sex selection, but notes “there is limited research into the question of whether Australians support the use of sex selection for non-medical purposes”. This paper investigates Australian attitudes to sex-selection technology by different means (IVF, abortion, and a hypothetical pill), for different reasons (medical, family balancing, any reason), and by differing respondent characteristics (age, sex, education and religiosity).
In 2007 and 2016, the Australian Survey of Social Attitudes (AuSSA) collected data on the attitudes of Australian adults to sex selection through IVF, abortion, and a hypothetical pill. We calculate population-weighted distributions and 95% confidence intervals of responses, and carry out logistic regressions to investigate the demographic characteristics of Australians who strongly disapprove of IVF or abortion for sex selection.
In 2016, around three-quarters of AuSSA respondents were opposed to legalising sex selection through IVF for any reason, or for family balancing for a second or third child. Thirty-seven per cent were opposed to IVF for medical sex selection. Two-thirds of respondents in both 2007 and 2016 disapproved or strongly disapproved of IVF for sex selection, while the proportion who strongly disapproved increased from 31 to 40%. Disapproval/strong disapproval of abortion for sex selection increased from 74 to 81% from 2007 to 2016, while strong disapproval alone rose from 44 to 55%. More than 70% of respondents in both 2007 and 2016 stated that a hypothetical pill for sex selection should not be legal. Our analysis finds that female, young, more-educated, and more religious respondents are more likely to strongly disapprove of sex selection via IVF or abortion, and that the increase in those who strongly disapprove from 2007 to 2016 is statistically significant.
Australians generally disapprove of the use of sex-selection technology. If legislation is to be guided by community attitudes, then the prohibition against sex selection for non-medical purposes through assisted reproductive technology should be maintained.