Parents frequently prefer their offspring to be of a particular sex for a variety of reasons. Social sex selection or
humansex selection is the attempt to control the sex of offspring to achieve a desired sex. It can be accomplished in several ways, both pre- and post-implantation of an embryo, as well as at birth. It has been marketed under the title family balancing.
Two major types of pre-implantation methods can be used for social sex selection.
Sperm sorting- The separation of X Chromosomesperm from Y Chromosome sperm. The resulting sorted sperm are used in either artificial inseminationor in-vitro fertilization(IVF) procedures. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis(PGD) - In sex selection cases, embryos resulting from IVF procedures are genetically tested for X or Y Chromosomes. The embryos of the desired sex are then implanted.
Prenatal diagnosis- Amniocentesisand/or ultrasoundis used to determine sex of an offspring, leading to subsequent abortionof any offspring of the unwanted sex. The more recent technique of fetal blood now makes it possible to test the sex of the fetus from the sixth week of pregnancy.
infanticide- Killing children of the unwanted sex. Though illegal in most parts of the world, it is still practiced.
child abandonment- Abandoning children of the unwanted sex. Though illegal in most parts of the world, it is still practiced.
adoption- Placing children of the unwanted sex for adoption. Less commonly viewed as a method of social sex selection, adoption affords families that have a gender preference a legal means of choosing offspring of a particular sex.
The application of these techniques to humans creates moral and ethical concerns in the opinion of some, while the advantages of sensible use of selected technologies is favored by others.
Listed here are some ethical concerns:
Sexual discrimination- The idea that if one sex is preferred over another, those individuals in the non-preferred sex would be at a disadvantage. Opponents of social sex selection argue that the procedure would artificially unequalize the ratio of females to males, leading to discrimination, potential violence and abuse of the smaller group. Eugenics- Many fear that PGD, in general, is a 'slippery slope' leading to a society where 'non-selected' individuals would be discriminated against. PGD is used primarily in the U.S. for the purpose of reducing birth defects and abnormalities, but opponents fear that there is nothing stopping persons from using PGD for more eugenic-based purposes.
Psychological Implications - There may be psychological implications for both the parents and child if the procedure does not produce a child of the desired sex. Furthermore, problems may also arise if the gender-related expectations of the parents are not subsequently fulfilled by the child. However, it may be the case that any child will fail to fulfill particular parental expectations, so perhaps more emphasis should be placed on promoting acceptance and tolerance within parents as opposed to completely banning sex selection.
Kantianprinciples - Many argue that by selecting the sex of their child, parents are using the child as a means of fulfilling their own desires rather than respecting the child as a person and an end in their own right.
In contrast, there is widespread support for the concept that individual reproductive choice is an important private decision which should not be infringed by government. There is considerable evidence from sperm sorting in the United States that pre-conceptual use of this technology, which does not involve destruction of embryos or fetuses, is desired and utilized by many couples to achieve balancing of gender ratios within their families. Furthermore, the fear that there would be preferential selection of boys is clearly false - indeed, actual experience in the U.S. indicates that the technology is used more often to obtain girls than boys. Thus the real-world experiences with techniques such as MicroSort demonstrate that theoretical fears of gender discrimination from sperm sorting are not at all realized in a country such as the U.S. There is equally little real evidence in support of the other theoretical harms postulated by opponents of pre-conceptual gender selection.
Post-conceptual selection by preimplantation testing (PGD) is a distinct subject as it obviously involves preferential use of embryos, and of course termination of pregnancy for gender selection is a quite different matter.
In addition to the ethical concerns mentioned, issues of
demographicsarise in societies where social sex selection is common. A society may exhibit a widespread bias towards having children of a specific gender, either due to cultural biases or economic concerns (e.g. male children may be more employable in the future and thus provide more financial support). When combined with frequent social sex selection, this bias may produce a gender imbalancethat has undesirable consequences. This phenomenon has been observed in many nations in the Far East, such as Indiaand China, where social sex selection has produced unnaturally high male/female ratios in the population. China's gender imbalance is further increased by the One Child Policy. In these nations, a lack of opportunity for many men to marry is believed to be producing increases in crime, demand for prostitution, and the selling of brides. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/2723513.stm India's lost girls] , BBC Online, 4 Feb 2003.] [ [http://wcbstv.com/minutes/sixtyminutes_story_107083648.html China's Gender Imbalance] , CBS News, 17 Apr 2006.]
In contrast, actual experience in Western cultures provides no evidence for any degree of gender imbalance from technologies which have long been available and legal - such as selective abortion or preimplantation embryo testing. When used for family balancing indications in such countries as the United States, pre-conceptual sex selection is widely sought without any preferential selection of males. Thus the right of individual families to determine whether or not to balance gender of offspring in their families is not and will not become, in many countries, a demographic issue. Furthermore, in countries where such demographic issues exist because of strong gender preferences in a segment of the population, regulatory and legal control of, without denial of access to, sperm sorting technology can be utilized to provide individuals with choices while ensuring that equal numbers of boys and girls are produced for population demographic equality.
History and folk beliefs
There are a wide variety of social sex selections methods which have not been demonstrated to be effective. Because even implausible and ineffective methods have a "success" rate of 50%, many continued to be recommended by word of mouth.
As early as
330 BC, Aristotleprescribed the ligation (tying off) of the left testiclein men wishing to have boys. [Hoag, Hannah. [http://dfire.org/x1405.xml I'll take a girl, please... "Cherry-picking from the dish of life"] . Drexel University Publication.]
Some people believe that timing conception according to astrological charts can influence a baby's sex, [ [http://www.indianchild.com/chinese_birth_chart.htm Ancient chinese birth gender chart] ] though there is no evidence to support this or any other timing method. A 13th century Chinese
conception chartpurports to be able to identify the sex of the baby before birth.
During the 1980s, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories teamed with the United States Department of Agriculture to develop the first (and only) successful and repeatable means of separating X- (male) and Y- (female) chromosome bearing spermatozoa. [Garner DL, Seidel GE. History of commercializing sexed semen for cattle. Theriogenology 2008;69: 886-895.] Based on the DNA difference between the X and Y chromosome, the technique (known as 'Beltsfield Sperm Sexing Technology') uses
flow cytometryto accurately separate each sub-population. Sperm sortingby flow cytometry is able to separate spermatozoafrom most mammalian species, including humans [Seidel GE, Jr., Johnson LA. Sexing mammalian sperm--overview. Theriogenology 1999;52: 1267-1272.] . 'Sexed semen' is offered commercially in cattle by a variety of companies including Cogent (UK) and Sexing Technologies (USA). In humans the technique is marketed as 'MicroSort', but is unavailable outside of the USA due to legal restrictions.
Recently, a study published in
2006indicated that mothers with toxoplasmosishave a significantly higher sex ratio of boys to girls. This has been discussed in connection with the manipulation hypothesisof parasites. cite journal
last = Flegr | first = Jaroslav | coauthors =
year = 2007| month =
title = Women infected with parasite "Toxoplasma" have more sons
journal = Naturwissenschaften | volume = 94| issue = | pages = 122
doi = 10.1007/s00114-006-0166-2
url = http://www.natur.cuni.cz/~flegr/pdf/toxosons.pdf
language = | format = PDF
quote = ]
Social sex selection is illegal in
India. To ensure this, prenatal determination of sex through ultrasoundis also illegal in India. These laws are instituted to combat the prevalent practice of sex-selective abortion. However, these laws have generally failed to be effective and sex-selective abortion continues to be widely practised.
Sex selection is legal in most of the world, and its practice particularly in Western countries is far more limited than in India or China.
Sex-selective abortion and infanticide
* [http://www.havingbabies.com/acrobat/gender-selection.pdf MicroSort]
* [http://www.genetics-and-society.org/index.asp Center for Genetics and Society]
* [http://www.in-gender.com Baby Gender Selection - The straight truth about methods for choosing the sex of your baby]
* [http://www.fertility-docs.com/fertility_gender.phtml 60 Minutes: 100% Gender Selection with PGD]
* [http://microsort.com MicroSort Website]
* [http://www.cicred.org/Eng/Publications/pdf/BOOK_singapore.pdf A collection of essays on sex selection in various Asian countries by Attané and Guilmoto]
* [http://www.unfpa.org/gender/case_studies.htm Five case studies and a video on sex selection in Asia by UNFPA]
* [http://atheism.about.com/library/weekly/aa100301a.html Bioethics: Gender Selection]
* [http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/9809/09/baby.sex.ethics/ Gender selection for babies poses ethical dilemmas]
* [http://www.phgfoundation.org/news/3312 On fetal blood testing]
"Gyn Talk (Visual Fiction)"
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Look at other dictionaries:
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