Recent times have seen a rise in the number of PGD/ IVF procedures that have been performed around the world to help couples choose the gender of their baby. The main force behind the popularity of this treatment has been that it almost guarantees that the mother will conceive a child of her chosen gender. This increase in popularity has led to a natural increase in demand for couples wanting to undergo IVF/ PGD to balance their family. But in countries like Saudi Arabia, Gender selection is still a bit of an unknown and hence prohibited as authorities consider its implications on society and how it fits in with Islamic (Sharia) law. Some scholars have argued that the concept is not against the teachings of Islam. The procedure involves the use of IVF to remove eggs from the mother and externally fertilising them with the male sperm. Once the eggs are fertilised, the resulting embryos are analysed to determine whether they are male or female. The embryo of the desired gender is then re-implanted into the mother so that it can be conceived. The unwanted embryos are destroyed. It is thought by scholars that since the embryos do not have soul at such an early stage, it is not forbidden. According to them the Quran states that the destruction of an early stage baby with a soul is forbidden. But the fact that the embryo is just a few days old means that this Islamic law does not apply.
Irrespective of this, Khalid-Al-Osaimi, the spokesman for the Eastern Province Health Affairs in Saudi Arabia has stated that the Pre-conception gender selection operation is prohibited in public hospitals. Some of the social affairs officials have expressed concerns that this medical intervention would be used by parents to give preference to conceiving boys over girls. But on the flip side those such as Saleh Al-Nimer has argued that this option of sex selection has actually resulted in fewer couples filing for divorce because they now have an option to address the issue of a mother not having a boy. Where previously the lack of a desired boy in a family may have led to the husband and wife splitting, this procedure now allows people to address the issue.
People who are looking to choose the gender of their baby are now seeking treatment in private medical clinics. The prohibition of the treatment from public hospitals means that private hospitals are getting busier for IVF/ PGD Gender selection procedure.
One of the first operations of this kind in Saudi Arabia dates back to around 2006. Since then, Doctors have seen a gradual rise in the number of people undergoing this medical intervention. For example, since last year, it has been reported that the PGD procedure has seen an increase of 2%. This is an increase from 4% last year to 6% this year, according to the Doctor Essam Al-Hameed, who is the supervisor of private hospitals in the Eastern province.
The increase in popularity has resulted from an edict that was given in 2008 that confirmed that the treatment was not against Islamic rules. This increase is bound to continue as more and people get to learn of the treatment. In countries such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi and UAE as a whole, the procedure has been legally being performed for a few years now. The clinics in Saudi Arabia will probably follow suit when it comes to demand. If it remains prohibited in Saudi, the people still have the option of travelling over to the UAE for the IVF/ PGD intervention.