Conservative MP Fiona Bruce, who spearheaded the move, said the law was being "interpreted in different ways".
But her proposal was defeated by 292 to 201. A review of the extent of sex selective abortion was agreed to.
The government said it had been consistently clear that sex selective abortion was "already illegal".
Health Minister Jane Ellison new guidance had been issued by the Department for Health last May, which independent sectors had to comply with.
Ms Bruce had received support from more than 100 MPs prior to the debate.
Her amendment would not have changed the law, but sought to update 1967 legislation that was drafted before it was possible to identify the sex of a foetus.
An alternative amendment, providing for a review of the extent of gender selection abortion in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, was backed by 491 to 2.
Making the case for the change, the Congleton MP said her amendment would "clarify beyond doubt in statute that sex selective abortion is illegal in UK law".
And it would provide the government with an opportunity to address the "problem", such as by bringing forward best practice regulations and guidance, she added."
Read article from BBC News.