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Choosing Sex, Compensating Donors and Egg Banks: The NHMRC is calling for our thoughts on IVF


Australia is reviewing its policy on IVF sex selection, compensating egg donors and egg banks. They have asked for submissions with our thoughts on this. My submission is below. The Working Committee has developed a range of case studies that illustrate the issues that arise. You can read more about each of these case studies here:

You can also make your own submission here:

Also, I invite you to read this illuminating article by Tereza  Hendl on the topic of sex selection in The Conversation:

Appendix 3a Sex selection for non-medical purposes

I am heavily in favour of the existing laws remaining as they currently are. This is largely due to the inherently forceful application of gender norms upon children whose sex has been chosen. I wholeheartedly agree with the 2007 guidelines which state that admission to life should not be conditional upon being a particular sex. I address the case studies in the following ways:

Family Balancing: none of the four scenarios in this case study present a strong enough argument for sex selection, in my opinion. Rather, all four of the scenarios demonstrate an assumption that gender is tied to sex, and expectation that an child of a particular sex will display particular gender characteristics. This is a problem because it reinforces gender norms.

Replacement of a Child: While this case carries much more sympathy that the scenarios in the Family Balancing case, they essentially come back to the same problem – that there is an assumption that a child of one sex with ascribe to a particular gender, and will be somehow similar to the previous child who was or was not of that gender. I cannot support sex selection in this case.

Travelling Overseas for Sex Selection: In these scenarios we are presented with good evidence for why IVF in Australia should be more readily available and cost effective, but not good evidence for why sex selection should be allowed. While some patients will continue to travel overseas for treatment, in order to gain sex selection, it is my opinion that Australian clinics should counsel patients as to WHY they wanted sex selection, and continue to offer them safe and regulated treatment NOT including sex selection. This would mean that more parents might be encouraged to stay in Australia for their treatment, and have the opportunity to address any assumptions they have about gender and their future child.

Respecting Parental Autonomy: These scenarios present exactly the problems I have been outlining in the previous three case studies. Parents should be counselled to realise that their happiness does not depend on their child fulfilling certain gender expectations, and to try and do so is potentially detrimental to the child’s own mental health.

Other potential Uses: The is an obvious flaw here in that sex selection will not determine whether the child will or will not inherit the condition that the parents do not desire. However, there is a more significant problem, in that parents and society more generally are not able to value individuals who are seen as ‘disabled’ in some way. We must work against this assumption, just as we are with gender norms, to realise that those who have been diagnosed with some form of ‘disorder’ are not limited, or lacking potential. Rather, these people possess incredibly valuable personal qualities that can make them hugely significant contributors to our communities.

Appendix 3b Compensation of Australian women for the reproductive effort and risks associated with donating their eggs

It seems that the important distinction to be made is how much egg donors are compensated and what constitutes the difference between compensation and inducement. I would suggest that it is currently common practice for donor-recipients to compensate their egg donors all the costs referred to as ‘reasonable out-of-pocket’ expenses, including medical, counselling, loss of earnings, travel, accommodation, insurance and legal advice. It may be useful then, to have some kind of regulation around these costs, to make the line between ‘reasonable’ and ‘unreasonable’ costs clearer for all parties. So long as the egg-donor was only reimbursed, and not able to actually make a profit from donating, I see no reason why these regulations should not be brought into place. This would increase options for donor-recipients greatly, as more women might be willing to donate, particularly to not-previously-known donor recipients. However, I suspect that the numbers of voluntary donors might still remain low, since this system would not essentially be any different from the current system based on altruism, just more regulated.

Appendix 3c 3c Establishment of an Australian donor egg bank

An egg bank would have the benefit of regulating how children may continue to access their donors, and information about them throughout their lives. Donors would also be able to continue to access information about any children that were born as a result of their donation. However, donors should not be able to contact children unless parents and children have specifically requested this.

I am in support of the establishment of an Australian donor egg bank, under certain conditions. Eggs which have been frozen, but unused, by women who undertook their own IVF cycles, should be available for donation, but not for any compensation. This should only be the case once that woman has completed her own family, to reduce the risk of her regretting the decision to donate. Since the woman’s costs involved in the procedure have already been covered by herself, she should not incur any further costs in choosing to donate the eggs that she no longer wants to use. This would essentially mean that she would not be compensated more than other egg donors, who would be provided with nothing beyond ‘reasonable out-of-pocket’ expenses.

Egg sharing, where women are compensated costs for IVF in exchange for donating some of their eggs should not be allowed. Women who need IVF to conceive should have completed their own families before being able to donate to the egg bank, particularly if they have not been able to conceive easily themselves. This will reduce the likelihood of women who are currently undergoing IVF, donating their eggs, and later feeling that they ‘lost’ the ‘good’ eggs to a donor-recipient. This is a separate issue to women who wish to donate to an egg bank prior to choosing to start their own families. This should be allowed, so long as they have received significant counselling about the impact of potentially donating eggs, if natural conception does not come so easily for them later. In this case, women should be compensated, just as they would be if it were an altruistic donation to a known donor-recipient.

Kids’ Yoga Film

In conjunction with my research at the University of Sydney on children’s yoga I have been busily making this film. It highlights some of the things that my research has found and gets kids to talk about their yoga. I hope you enjoy!

Notes to the Mainlanders



I arrived in Tassie yesterday to be greeted by the amazing Carinda Rue and her beautiful family. Carinda is an inspiration, she owns YogaBugs Tasmania and has classes all over the state between herself and her team. She is also mother of two amazing yogabugs, Connor (ten) and Mia (seven), and wife to Adriaan. I am down here with this beautiful family to interview Carinda, her team, her students and parents and to travel out to Bruny Island School where Carinda has helped make yoga part of the school day. Thanks to Carinda I will be able to film classes at the school and elsewhere – and start to make a short documentary about how yoga can help our kids be even happier, stronger, more confident and more amazing. I will share more of these images as they begin to be published, but in the meantime I thought I would give you this pick of my furry friend, Zaccy. While here I am being totally spoilt – with a big double bed and room of my own – I even get to sleep with this cuddly kitty. What a treat!

More soon 🙂


Kids’ Holiday Yoga Workshops

Join me in January for Kids Holiday Yoga Workshops at FluidForm Pilates and Yoga! Last holidays we had so much fun in our workshops we decided to do them again. I can’t wait!

Tues 15th Jan Sthira (strength) class 930-1130am
Today your little yogi will learn the warrior poses and take an adventure as various superheroes, using our bodies to imagine flying through the air, going upside down, having powerful breath and being super strong. We will learn about how real superheroes are not only mighty, but also compassionate, loving and gentle. After morning tea we will create a poster of our own superhero to remind us of all the ways we would like to be powerful and loving.

Tues 22nd Jan Sukha (gentleness) class 930-1130am
Today your little yogi will learn partner poses, and find ways that we can do yogaby giving to our partners, as well as receiving. We will imagine visiting a baby animal zoo and learn how to be kind, caring baby ducks, frogs, puppies, turtles and many other animals. After morning tea we will continue learning about how to be considerate and compassionate of one another and ourselves by creating an artwork of what compassion means to us, using words, pictures and an assortment of craft materials.
To book your little yogi a place, email or call 02 8399 3887! Limited spaces available, so be quick.

Yoga Australia Conference 2013

I am VERY excited to be presenting a workshop at the upcoming Yoga Australia Conference in April 2013 in Brisbane. All are welcome and registrations are still open so if you are keen to come to the Conference please do!

Details of my workshop are:

1.30 – 3.30pm SATURDAY, APRIL 27th

This workshop will explore the current field of children’s yoga and suggest the need for further development in understanding what a child’s experience in the classroom is, how the practice affects them, and why. Karen will suggest the application of several theories of the body which have proven productive in her research, and open up the discussion to feedback and ideas. Participants in this workshop should have an interest in children practicing yoga, but are not required to have any prior experience of it.

The presentation will be broken down into two one-hour sections. In the first hour Karen will introduce her research, including her reading of current literature in the field of children’s yoga and suggesting that further theorisation of the practice is required. She will discuss the importance and relevance for children, teachers and parents in understanding not only what works in a children’s yoga classroom, but also how and why. In this hour Karen will introduce participants to postmodern theories of the body, and address how they may usefully be applied to children’s yoga. She will also discuss how Sanskrit texts may provide insight into how children practice yoga and the effect it has on them. If there is time during this discussion, she will focus on one of the themes of her research, narrative, and show how she uses this theme to interpret the ways children think of themselves and others in the classroom. In the second hour of this presentation Karen will engage participants in a child-like practice, breaking down each component of the class with a discussion of how that element might affect children. During this time Karen encourages participants to collaborate with her, imagining and discovering what the experience of the child is during yoga.

The primary objective of this workshop is for adult participants to have a deeper understanding of what it is like to be a child practicing yoga. Participant outcomes include engagement with theories of the body and consideration of how they may be applied to children’s practice. Participants will be asked to imagine and feel the experience that children have in class, and to reflect upon the affects this may have on them.

Karen is a children’s, dynamic and vinyasa yoga teacher at Life and Balance, Fluid Form Pilates, BodyMindLife and Yoganic, Sydney. In 2011 Karen began her PhD at the University of Sydney researching how children practice yoga, drawing on both yogic philosophy and postmodern theories of the body.


Further details of the conference can be found here:

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