Pre-selecting sex of children
Generations of parents-to-be have hoped and prayed for a baby of a particular gender (often in practice, for a boy, as cultural factors such as restricting inheritance of property and the family name to male heirs, restrictions on female economic activity, and the heavy cost of dowries when daughters are married have all encouraged male preference throughout history).
In some circumstances gender selection has been practised after birth by the abandonment of unwanted infants, a practice which has not entirely died out today in some countries. The development of ultrasound scanners which allow the sex of an unborn child to be determined in the womb has more recently led to selective abortion, especially in China where cultural factors combined with the single-child policy in the 1980s and 1990s to make many families determined to ensure their only child was male. Although ultrasound scanning for sexual selection is illegal, it is widespread in China and the 2000 Census revealed that 117 boys are now born for every 100 Chinese girls. Similar figures for India, although less reliable, also indicate widespread use of (illegal) ultrasound scanning and selective abortion of female foetuses. This topic does not focus upon or attempt to present arguments for selective abortion, but this does provide the context for a more recent and balanced debate – as to whether new methods for selecting the gender of a child at the start of a pregnancy should be allowed. There are two relatively new technological methods of achieving the goal of embryonic gender selection, which has for so long been the stuff of science fiction. These are genetic diagnosis, in which embryos created in a test-tube are analysed before being implanted in the womb, and the MicroSort technique, in which sperm is ‘sorted’ to make it much more likely that the egg is fertilised by a sperm carrying the desired chromosome. Most of the arguments apply to both as they are about whether this practice should be allowed in principle, but the distinction is touched on.
Introduction In our advancing society, almost everything is possible. Due to the rapid development of genetics, parents now are able to choose the gender of a child. For some it may seem as a great step towards future when it will be possible not only to predict, but also to choose gender of a future child, while others are concerned with implementation of new scientific achievements into life. ...