New Zealand parents involved in IVF programs could soon be allowed to choose the sex of their child if the government follows the advice of its Bioethics Council.
The council, a ministerial advisory committee, on Thursday handed the government a key report which said individuals were in the best position to make decisions about sex selection.
But the stance has drawn fire from the New Zealand Catholic Bioethics Centre, which said parenthood was not about "ordering" children to meet specifications.
The report - titled Who Gets Born? - says the gender of embryos created outside the mother's body under programs such as IVF should be chosen by parents, allowing them to gender-balance their families, The New Zealand Herald newspaper reported.
The council's recommendations relate specifically to pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD, when embryos are created outside the womb so they can be tested for likely inherited genetic conditions.
Under laws introduced in 2004, sex selection is banned in New Zealand except where it is part of treatment for a genetic disorder or disease.
It is also banned in Australia and the United Kingdom, but is allowed in the United States.
In New Zealand, those who break the law can be jailed for up to five years or fined up to $NZ200,000 ($A160,000).
Bioethics Council chairman Associate Professor Martin Wilkinson said the council had decided, based on feedback it received while writing the report, that key decisions such as sex selection should be left to parents.
"Ultimately decisions should be made by parents," he told Radio New Zealand.
The New Zealand Catholic Bioethics Centre said the report had acknowledged but put aside concerns about parents using genetic tests for social reasons.
"From a Catholic perspective all embryos are equal and deserve unconditional respect," spokesmen Michael McCabe and John Kleinsman said.
"Our role, as parents, is to welcome our children in an unconditional way.
"The proper role of pre-birth testing is to help the parents to prepare the best way they can for their new child or to enable medical interventions that are aimed at the well-being of the child in-utero, not to eliminate certain types of children."
Associate Minister for the Environment Nanaia Mahuta said ministers would consider the report's recommendations.
" ... the important thing is that the Bioethics Council has gone through a process to be able to present the issues and we will consider those issues and recommendations," Mahuta told reporters, saying she expected strong debate.
"There will be some tussle between individual responsibility, the responsibility of parents vis a vis the rights associated with the embryo - I think that's where most of the debate will be pitched."
The report also said research should be done into using embryos created in pre-birth testing to help sick siblings.
Currently that can be done for sick siblings with an inherited disorder, but is not allowed for other disorders.
The report said that distinction should be removed.
The council, an independent body, spent a year gathering the views of more than 700 people for the report.
It said the report's recommendations were its view, but also reflected the opinions of those who took part in the research.
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