Australian couples are spending $20,000 to choose the eye colour and sex of their ‘designer babies’ at an overseas clinic.
But critics have slammed the practice, claiming it is reminiscent of ‘what the Nazis wanted to do’.
The Fertility Institutes, which has clinics across the United States, Mexico, and India, revealed on Saturday it has helped 370 Australian couples choose their child’s gender.
The practice is banned in Australia.
In addition to choosing the gender of their baby, 14 couples paid the controversial clinic to select their child’s eye colour, with blue being the most requested.
In 2009, the clinic attempted to introduce a service to choose not only the gender and eye colour, but also skin and hair colour.
The practice was abolished within weeks amid public scrutiny, but the clinic continued offering the tests for gender and eye colour.
The Brisbane geneticist who helped draw up the 2017 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) ban on using IVF to choose a baby’s gender or appearance has spoken out against the practice.
Professor David Coman labelled eye-colour selection as ‘eugenics’ and ‘grossly inappropriate in the Australian culture.’
‘This is what the Nazis were wanting to do – this is eugenics,’ he told The Sunday Mail.
Dr Gino Pecoraro, a Brisbane obstetrician, said he was ‘very alarmed’ that anyone would offer eye colour selection through IVF and that it contains frightening implications.
The Fertility Institutes labelled the critics as ‘out of line and clearly out of touch’, and called the criticism ‘juvenile and uninformed’, in a statement to the Sunday Mail.
‘One should be very, very careful before assigning any aspect of science to Nazism,’ it said.
The clinic said choosing a baby’s eye colour is important to those selecting, and adds that it has a 90 to 95 per cent success rate in doing so for parents who are pre-screened to carry the correct ‘genetic codes.’
The clinic also said its nurses assist patients in finding medicos in Australia who can help them start the treatment.
Eye colour selection is done by testing the parents and selecting embryos created through in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), and due to high demand has an 18-month wait.
The NRMRC warned on Saturday that it would be illegal for Australian doctors to co-operate with any foreign clinics offering eye colour or gender selection.
But, according to The Age, Australian clinics are actively involved in ‘sending’ clients to America.
The United States is one of the few places in the world where gender selection is not prohibited at IVF clinics and it has a fertility industry – worth $5.8billion in 2018 – which remains largely unregulated.