It’s natural for a father who already has three girls to want a boy next time. But should he be able to make that choice? Reproductive technologies exist to make sex selection a reality. However, many people believe that sex selection is ethically wrong. The UN reports, for example, that every day in India, 2,000 women abort a baby girl. Called feticide, this is a form of sex selection. When sex selection occurs for medical reasons, many people support the phenomenon.
Historically, people have devised homespun prescriptions for increasing the chances of having a boy or a girl, such as facing the bed in a north-south direction to conceive a boy, having the woman lie on her side during intercourse or timing intercourse in such a way as to produce a boy or a girl. None of these methods is reliable.
Most Promising Methods
The most promising methods of sex selection, as of 2010, involve separating the male Y-bearing sperm and the female X-bearing sperm. A doctor then artificially inseminates the women or uses in vitro fertilization with the chosen type of sperm. These methods increase the chances of conceiving a child of a particular sex.
Typically, sperm-sorting or testing prior to artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization is done if couples think they may pass on a genetic defect that only affects a certain sex. According to Dr. Roger W. Harms, a MayoClinc.com editor, these high-tech and expensive techniques are rarely used if the only reason to conduct them is to choose a baby’s sex.
Another sex selection method consists of the parents determining the sex of the baby through ultrasound or amniocentesis and then aborting if the sex is not the desired one. According to “Marie Claire” magazine, one at-home kit claims to be able to determine the baby’s sex seven weeks after conception by taking a pinprick blood sample from the mother. Dr. Arthur Caplan, chair of the Department of Medical Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania, told “Marie Claire” that unless there are medical concerns, there is no good reason to perform this kind of test. Caplan also wonders about the accuracy of these at-home kits. The company that makes the at-home test does not sell it in India or China. Terry Carmichael, VP of marketing for the at-home test, told “Marie Claire” that most people who buy the kit are excited moms who want to know the sex early without their husband knowing.
What People Think
According to research conducted in 2006 and published in the journal “Prenatal Diagnosis,” most people do not favor gender selection. The abortion method is even less defensible, according to the research. A reasonable acceptance level exists, however, when couples use sex selection to avoid passing on a genetic disease. The most common objections to sex selection are religious based, worry about social imbalances with more boys in society, interrupting the destiny of the child and that sex selection turns children into a commodity to satisfy a parental need. The most common reason people in the U.S. favor sex selection is to balance the family.