Nurses at the RCN's annual congress in Bournemouth demanded legislation to prevent the sex of babies being decided on purely social grounds. Diana Orr, a nurse from Chelmsford who proposed the move, said: 'If we as a society bow to pressure for sex selection on purely social grounds, what comes next - choosing hair or eye colour, or height or intelligence? There can only be one basis for gender selection and that is the avoidance of genetic disorders. If this field is not regulated, how long before we see the Arthur Daleys or worse victimising the vulnerable for a nice little earner?'
But Steve Wright, chairman of the college's ethics committee, said it was infinitely preferable that sex selection should take place within a legal and licensed framework than be driven underground.
Earlier, delegates threw out a call for smokers to be made to pay for treatment of related illnesses.