A Spiral of Control

 

The declaration of a healthy baby, along with the shallow cries streaming from a newborn infant in a delivery room is a parent’s greatest blessing. The birth of a child is ones of the most joyful and celebrated events in humanity; a forever cherish day by society, dedicated to the time one entered the world. Predetermined Gender selection for new borns is a highly modernized matter making an appearance in the medical field. It raises ethical questions that are vastly disputed. The gender selection controversy narrows down to a conflict between the reproductive rights of parents’ verses gender imbalance. People who are in support of the gender selection value reproductive rights. Those who appose it fear discrimination against women and results of gender imbalance. The only value in selecting the gender of newborn babies is in the personal needs of the parents, therefore, the pull for gender selection is not a strong enough argument for society to allow such a mutation.

Medical technologies are designed to discover, shape, change, and improve human health and wellness. However, some technological advances are not always what are best for society. Choosing the sex of your child is now possible due to advances in fertility treatments that allow doctors to identify male and female embryos (Choosing Your Baby’s Sex: What the Scientists Say). A technique called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) was originally developed two decades ago to allow embryos to be tested for genetic disease (The Ethics of Gender Selection). It requires parents to use in vitro fertilization, where eggs are fertilized outside the womb. PGD can also be used to allow people undergoing in-vitro fertilization to select the gender of the embryo implanted in the mother’s uterus (The Ethics of Gender Selection).

Artificial insemination (AI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) are two types of infertility treatments that use sex-selection techniques. AI places the sperm closer to the site of fertilization. There are various AI methods, but intrauterine insemination (IUI) is the most common. The doctor uses a thin tube to insert the sperm directly into the uterus (Choosing Your Baby’s Sex: What the Scientists Say).  IVF starts with a round of fertility drugs to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs for fertilization. When the eggs are ready to be retrieved, the doctor gives an anesthetic, and inserts a probe through the vagina to check the ovaries. The doctor then inserts a thin needle through the vaginal wall to remove the eggs from the follicles. After that, the eggs are fertilized with sperm in a petri dish (Choosing Your Baby’s Sex: What the Scientists Say). This technology is not covered under any insurance plan and can cost up to 40,000.

Economical enhancement is one reason for gender selection in families. Preparing for the birth of a child so that items needed can be shared saves families a plethora of money. If a family wants to have children close together, they may prefer having same gender children for this reason (Gender Selection Pros and Cons). This allows for many more shared items like clothing and toys. Many couples take joy in the power of being able to choose, they appreciate the fact that they can choose the sex of their baby and prepare in the proper manner. This can be for a variety of reasons such as feeling that they are better suited to raise a certain gender, or just mere preference.

Gender selection allows couples to have the number of boys and girls they want in their family without having to “try again”(Gender Selection Pros and Cons). Family Balancing is a non-medical justification for families who have one or more children of a sex and want to select the gender of their next child to balance the gender rations for their offspring (The Ethics of Gender-Specific Disease). The argument here is that children raised in a family with both genders will be better for society as a whole. The majority of reasons for gender selection are personal yet the most rational argument by physicians is for couples that want to avoid passing sex-linked genetic disorders to their children. Physicians say it is a commonly accepted ethical reason because of diseases such as Dystrophy, Hemophilia, and color blindness which is contracted by males through abnormal genes carried (The Ethics of Gender-Specific Disease).

The disadvantages of gender selection and effect it has on society out way the good that may stem from it. Choosing the sex of your child interferes with nature and the natural selection process. Medical techniques for gender selection are expensive and there are no guarantees. The most accurate sex-selection methods require invasive infertility treatments with fertility drugs resulting in potential side effects. At some fertility clinics, women are not eligible unless they are married and of a certain age (Choosing Your Baby’s Sex: What the Scientists Say).

Determining a child’s gender can equalize gender within a family, but it can also offset the world’s natural gender ratio. Bio-ethicist, John Robertson argues the defense for family balancing stating “a strong showing in the future that gender variety among children is important to an individuals welfare or a family’s flourishing could justify a different result”(The Ethics of Gender-Specific Disease). There is no evidence that gender variety in families’ results in advantages for society. Using children as a means to another end such as the fulfillment of the wants of parents is a violation of the dignity of children (The Ethics of Gender-Specific Disease). The idea that one can construct ‘ideal-typed’ families with specific gender structure is not a positive.

Regardless of the society and culture, gender stereotypes and unequal standards for women are part of history and continue to happen today. Gender selection in patriarchal societies such as Japan, China, Thailand, Malaysia, and India is a dangerous route (Gender Selection in China). Male preference is traced far back into history. In the ancient Chinese, Egyptian, and Greek civilizations, there were practices claimed to be effective in influencing the gender of a child before its birth (Gender Selection in China). Even in contemporary eras, people rely on advantages to facilitate conception of a male infant (Scientific Aspects of Preconception Gender Selection).

The medical procedure of genetic screenings reveals the preferences toward males. The one-child policy is part of the family planning policy for population control in China introduced in 1978 (Gender Selection in China). “In 2007, 36% of China’s population was subject to a strict one-child restriction. An additional 53% were allowed to have a second child if the first child was a girl”(Callick, China Relaxes Its One-child Policy). The greater value is placed on males because of cultural beliefs in countries all around the world. Unequal gender rations based on social reasons is a current problem because the value of male offspring is higher than female. China is just one example of a culture with a strong preference for males. Gender selection for social reasons should not be allowed because it results in society endorsing gender inequality.

The division on whether genetic screenings that allow parents to choose the sex of their baby should be allowed is of no refutes. The United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia all ban the use of PGD for gender selection for nonmedical purposes yet it is legal in the U.S (Scientific Aspects of Preconception Gender Selection). A Los Angeles fertility expert, Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, told CNN in a 2009 report that 70 percent of his clients are from countries where gender selection is banned.

Gender selection is ultimately bad for women. Girls and women have the same economic, cultural, and educational potential as boys and men, supporting gender selection services justifies false believes in some societies (Scientific Aspects of Preconception Gender Selection). There is nothing wrong with grieving the lack of a boy or girl, but it is unethical to use technologies for fulfillment of personal desires without taking account for the effects it has on the world (Scientific Aspects of Preconception Gender Selection). What is most at risk is the ethics of society. According to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, approximately 105 boys are born for every 100 girls (Choosing Your Baby’s Sex: What the Scientists Say). There are a plethora of issues that may stem from utilizing this technology; the largest is gender imbalance, especially in countries where societies traditional prefer a boy. It is an irrefutable concern.

Preferring one gender over another conveys the message that sexist practices are acceptable in the United Stales (The Ethics of Gender Selection). Gender selection reinforces social tendency to link sex to worth. Many argue it is wrong to limit sciences’ capabilities, placing limits on advances that could be utilized, yet the only true benefit that seems to stem from gender selection is the personal convenience it serves for the parents. For fertility clinics to offer gender selection services to people for nonmedical reasons is an unethical practice. It is important to encourage parents to embrace their child, gay, straight, blue eyed, brown eyed, and so on. Ethically speaking, embracing your child promotions a healthy society allowing for diversity on all different levels. Allowing gender selection for non-medical reasons pushes society back, and does not strive to solve social issues but rather reinforces them.

 

Work Cited

Akchurin, Whitney, and Ryan Kartzke. “The Ethics of Gender-Specific Disease.” The Ethics of Gender Selection (2012) http://www.ethicapublishing.com/ethical/3CH2.pdf. Web. 4 Nov. 2015.

Callick, Rowan. “China Relaxes Its One-child Policy.” The Australian. Asia Pacific Editor Melbourne, 24 Feb. 2015. Web. 4 Nov. 2015. 

Chan, Cecilia, Paul Yip, and Ernest H. “Gender Selection in China: Its Meanings and Implications.” Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics 19 (2006): 426. SpringerLink.

“Gender Selection Pros and Cons.” Gender Selection-. Web. 21 Oct. 2015.

Leigh, Suzanne. “Choosing Your Baby’s Sex: What the Scientists Say | BabyCenter.” BabyCenter. BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board, Oct. 2015. Web. 09 Nov. 2015.

Schulman, Joseph D., and David S. Karabinus. “Scientific Aspects of Preconceptio GenderSelection.” Reproductive BioMedicine Online 10 (2005): 111-15.

 

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