NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 7, 2007

There are several ways to pick a baby's sex before a woman becomes pregnant, or at least to shift the odds.  But while parents may love the idea of choosing to have a boy or girl, sex selection creates an ethical dilemma in the medical field, says Denise Grady in the New York Times.

Much of the worry about this issue derives from what has happened internationally, says Grady:

  • In China and India, preferences for boys led to widespread aborting of female fetuses when ultrasound and other tests made it possible to identify them.
  • China's one-child policy is thought to have made matters worse -- last month, Chinese officials said that 118 boys were born for every 100 girls in 2005.
  • Overall, some reports out of China have projected an excess of 30 million males in less than 15 years.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposes sex selection except in people who carry a genetic disease that primarily affects one sex.  But allowing sex selection just because the parents want it, with no medical reason, may support "sexist practices," the college said in an opinion paper published this month in its journal, Obstetrics and Gynecology.

But others say the issue is overblown.  The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, a group for infertility doctors, takes a somewhat more relaxed view of sex selection. Instead of opposing sex selection outright, it says that in people who already need in vitro fertilization and want to test the embryos' sex without a medical reason, the testing should "not be encouraged." And those who don't need in vitro fertilization but want it just for sex selection "should be discouraged," the group says.

Source: Denise Grady, "Girl or Boy? As Fertility Technology Advances, So Does an Ethical Debate," New York Times, February 6, 2007.

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