Thursday, May 27, 2004

Bioethics of Gender Selection, part I

I have decided to write about the bioethics of gender selection.  Gender Selection, also known as sex control or sex selection, is the practice of employing technology to influence the gender of a child, either prior to, or during the process of, conception.  In this article, I will talk about the reasons for writing this, and the sources of information that I have located so far.  Later, possibly tomorrow, I will write about the various ethical issues that have been discussed in the various sources.  I may or may not get to my own conclusion at that time, or I might write that even later.  We'll see.

How I decided to write this: Last Friday, I got to go in to work late.  Well, 10AM is late.  It turns out that whenever there is a little sliver of time in my schedule, if I don't keep it a secret, somebody else thinks of a way to fill it.  So five weeks ago, we took out mare, April, to be bred.  According to the breeding contract, we had to get an ultrasound done to verify and date the pregnancy.  My wife, having her right leg in a beautiful purple cast, knew that she would not be able to help the vet.  As a result, she scheduled to vet to come on Friday morning. 

So here I am, Friday morning, getting my work clothes on.  "Honey, is there any way you could stay and help the vet with the ultrasound?" 

"Yeah, I guess."  Off with the Dockers and Rockports, on with the jeans and Muck boots.  The vet comes about a half hour late.  We go out and I get April.  She skittish because she's seen the vet's van come up the drive.  Fifteen minutes of cajoling later, we're in the barn and I'm holding the horse while the vet puts this big probe up where it can see what it needs to see.  On the screen, I see the little amniotic sac with what looks like a blurry comma inside. 

Merely 15 minutes late, I get to the hospital. I probably smell like a pregnant mare, but everyone is too polite to say anything. 

On the weekend, I run across some articles mentioning something called "gender selection."  This refers to the process of trying to make sure you get a child with the set of chromosomes that you want, thereby assuring the birth of a girl, if that is what you want; or a boy, if so desired.  BTW, I found out about this after reading a post on McConchie on Bioethics.  His post addresses the issue of people having babies specifically for the purpose of  obtaining tissue for donation to another child who has a life-threatening illness.  This issue is related to the issue of gender selection, because it uses some of the same methodology, but the ethical issues are different.

Later, I read on Marcland  that Marc and his wife are expecting a baby soon. 

This synchronicity sparking some spontaneity, I decided to collect some information about gender selection and write about it.  I read Dan McChonchie's post, then Joe Carter's (Evangelical Outpost).  Then I looked for more blogger commentary; I did not find much.  There is a post  by Jeremy Beard on Livejournal, and one  by Albert Mohler on Crosswalk.  The Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics  has a mention, but it is merely a link to a newspaper article in which one of their professors is quoted. 

There have been a few news articles recently.  The first ones I found were these:
Additional information:
[...] After describing preconception gender selection techniques, this report will discuss the ethical arguments for and against the use of such techniques. Drawing on the Ethics Committee’s previous analysis of preimplantation genetic diagnosis for sex selection, it recognizes the serious ethical concerns that such a practice raises and counsels against its widespread use. It concludes, however, that sex selection aimed at increasing gender variety in families may not so greatly increase the risk of harm to children, women, or society that its use should be prohibited or condemned as unethical in all cases. [...]

The committee rejects the position that sex selection should be performed on demand...because this position may reflect and encourage sex discrimination.

Some background points gleaned from these sources:

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