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Sex Selection for Family Balancing

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  • Pages: 7
  • Word count: 1633
  • Category: Family Sex

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Interest in sex control has increased through the years as a result of cultural, social and medical reasons. Interest has increased because preconception methods, such as “sperm sorting”, have become more prevalent. This method does away with the painful decision to terminate a second-trimester pregnancy especially for couples at risk for X-linked genetic disorders. As word of this technology has spread, it has attracted the interest of couples that want to use it for “family balancing. (Steinbock, 24)

In the recent past, when sex selection depended on abortions, most doctors could not justify the psychological and physical risks of an early termination of pregnancy just because a couple wanted a baby of a particular sex. Thus, sex selection was only justified in cases of sex-linked diseases. Now, that pre-conception selection is a possibility, the objections due to abortion are no longer relevant. A limited number of physicians have already been performing medically assisted sex selection for non-medical reasons.

This leads to the dilemma that currently exists. Questions about the morality of sex selection for non-medical reasons and concerns over the social consequences of widespread use of this technology are many. Some of the issues that have been examined are the threat to the sex ratio of the general population, gender discrimination, laws of natural selection, and whether this technology will be available to only those who can afford it. The idea of sex selection prior to insemination raises many ethical issues.

Many argue that sex selection is ethically acceptable for family balancing. Barbara Katz Rothman says it may be easy to empathize with situations where a woman with two sons may desperately want a daughter so she can take part in the mother-daughter experiences, including things such as choosing a prom dress. But she adds, “then you’ve got to think this kind of woman probably isn’t ready for a six-foot-tall, 300 pound girl who wears nothing but jeans and boots. Or let’s say that the boy you long for asks for ballet lessons.

Ok, now what do you do? ” (Rothman, 86) Sex selection, for example, raises questions about gender in a society that is struggling with a social revolution in the roles of men and women. Experts say the issues become even more socially charged when considered in the light of studies that have repeatedly shown a preference among parents for boys over girls, and for having a son first, followed by a daughter. Many critics have expressed misgivings about using this new technology, to balance families, or because parents prefer boys or girls.

Such choices, critics say, could lead to an imbalance in the sex ratio, with drastic consequences, such as further skewing the already tilting sex ratio in favor of boys. This leads to another ethical dilemma, what about the ethics of pregnancy termination if the sperm sorting technique fails to give the parents the gender of their choice. “Most people, even those who are strongly pro-choice and want women to have the right to make their own decisions regarding their pregnancies, would find this morally objectionable. ” (Steinbock, 24)

Most people agree with the use of sex selection for families with X-linked genetic disease, as does the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The committee believes that the practice of sex selection to prevent sex-linked genetic disorders is ethically permissible yet the committee opposes sex selection based on the belief that a particular sex is naturally more valuable. They also oppose any sex selection for personal or family reasons due to the concern that it may eventually support sexist actions (ACOG committee opinion, 200)

Back in May of 2001 the ethics committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine raised serious ethical questions with gender selection, including: “the potential for inherent gender discrimination, inappropriate control over nonessential characteristics of children, unnecessary medical burdens and costs for parents, and inappropriate and potentially unfair use of limited medical resources. ” (Ethics Committee Report, 862) After all, if physicians are using their skills for non-medical reasons, then those resources cannot be brought to other individuals with genuine need.

Many feel that the practice of gender selection goes against the laws of natural selection. By sorting sperm and selecting which sperm are able to compete for the fertilization of the egg, doctors are disrupting the natural selection involved. It is feasible that the sperm that was given the advantage was not intended to win the race to fertilize the egg, as it may not have naturally been the most fit sperm available. Additional concerns people have are possible sex ratio imbalances in the future, like we already have in China and India.

Also psychological harm to sex-selected offspring for example, by placing on them too high expectations and increased marital conflict over sex selective decisions. Dr. James Grifo, president of the Society for the Assisted Reproductive Technology, stated that sex selection is nothing more than sex discrimination therefore unethical. (Kolata, online) He expresses concern that publicity of this service could ultimately lead to society rejecting the technology of “test-tube” babies and, hence, put a stop to doctors helping people with legitimate medical needs. Dr.

Grifo also has doubts about where people are headed once parents begin choosing particular embryos based on upon desired traits and then discarding all of those that do not “measure up. ” (Kolata, online) For instance, how will those who grow up with “undesirable” traits, like the less intelligent or the less beautiful be treated? These technologies raise questions of class and social structure because they will most likely be available only to those who can independently afford them. Even more important are questions about the role of gender and the nature of parenting. What people are doing with this is not trying to determine the genitalia of their child, but the shape of their parenting experience,” says Barbara Katz Rothman, who explores the confrontation between science and social values in her book, “Genetic Maps and Human Imaginations: The Limits of Science in Understanding Who We Are. ” “Parenting was always supposed to allow a certain amount of openness in that you don’t know whom you will parenting,” she says. “Morally, historically, the commitment is supposed to be unconditional.

This introduction of some kind of conditionality kind of scares me. ” (Rothman, 90) Technology seems to be making children into products or achievements or commodities. It has been argued that sex selection for family balancing is deeply upsetting to society and for this reason should not be allowed. It has been said that this procedure decreases the spontaneity of conception and devalues the process of having children. Another relevant point is that sex selection may affect the way that existing children in the family feel about themselves and their new selected sibling.

The existing children may feel that their sex was not the preferred sex and that they are not as wanted as their selected sibling. Parents opting for sex selection must carefully consider this issue. The claim may be made that the desire to pre-select sex may be due to a parent’s goal of molding that child into an image of the parent. In this case, the parent is not recognizing the child’s individuality. The desire to select sex is not always associated with such a selfish attitude and with egoist goals.

Polls show that a majority of Americans view a perfect family as having one boy and one girl. Most couples would likely use sex selection to achieve perfection. Based on this observation the result would be perfect balance. It is true that some parents prefer children of one sex over the other, however, this would also balance out and not upset the sex ratio in society. (Steinbock, 25) Couples need to decide up front what steps they are willing to take to ensure that they get the specific gender agreed upon. Is the sex of one’s child so important that one is willing to forgo the pleasures and intimacy of sexual intercourse and opt instead for sperm sorting and artificial insemination? Is it worth the expense? ” (Steinbock, 25) Parents should consider deep moral discussions that would include their views on what kinds of attitudes towards gender are acceptable, what they as parents look for in the experience of parenting, and lastly, what kind of society do they strive to create for future generations.

The analysis of whether sex selection is objectionable and likely to have negative social consequences is not a decision to be taken lightly. The concerns that there will be possible sex ratio imbalances in the future, that parents will cause psychological harm to sex-selected offspring and existing siblings, that there will be increased marital conflict over sex selective decisions, and that sex selection will reinforce gender bias in society as a whole are legitimate. Parents have traditionally been given great discretion over their reproductive choices.

The ability to aid the desires of couples that have strong preferences about gender of their offspring is perhaps one of the strongest reasons for allowing such work. Thus, it is arguable that unless there is demonstrable and substantial harm to others, then couples should be allowed to choose the gender of their offspring. For these reasons, I suspect that as sex selection and other reproductive technologies become easily accessible and affordable that many couples will consider utilizing them.

This reveals that parents requesting the option of family balancing must discuss their motives for sex selection intensively. The couple must agree on what they will do if the child is not the sex they have chosen as aborting the child at that point would be viewed by many in society as immoral and unethical. Parenting is and has always been a very important piece of our social fabric. Parents to be should held accountable for their decisions to ensure that the technology available to establish sex selection does not get out of hand.

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