IVF Parents Pick Sex, Alter Balance Of Nature

Should parents undergoing fertility treatments like IVF have the right to choose the sex of the baby? Lawmakers in Britain have split over this issue, reigniting the debate over "designer babies".

Couples should be able to decide the gender of the embryo being implanted, parliament's cross-party Science and Technology Committee said in a report published Thursday. But half of the committee's 11 members rejected the findings as "unbalanced and light on ethics".

"The use and destruction of embryos does raise ethical issues and there are grounds for caution," the report concluded, but added: "On balance we find no adequate justification for prohibiting the use of sex selection for family balancing."

Critics of this policy are concerned that this would turn babies into "consumer items" - and make "designer babies" possible, with user-specifiable hair color, eye color and so forth. "Family balancing" refers to couples who have three girls already, and would like a boy (for example). Under current law, sex selection is allowed if there is a risk of gender-linked disease such as muscular dystrophy or hemophilia.

Science fiction authors have discussed possible futures in which sex selection of offspring is allowed. James Blish's And All the Stars a Stage, published in 1971, predicts that the end result of such technology is a matriarchy, as men become a glut on the market upon the introduction of Selektrogel:

Being a man, Jom was inclined to think that the real death blow had been struck by the release of Selektrojel to the populace as an over-the-counteror non-prescription item. Possibly if its use bad been restricted to couples psychiatrically certified to need a baby of a given sex -- like, say, a couple to whom unaided nature had given only a string of five daughters, or, no, better make it nine ... But that would not have worked either. The demand for the stuff had been far too great. Like alcohol, the trade in it could be regulated more or less effectively but it could never be restricted in any meaningful sense.
(Read more about Selektrogel)

For those who think that this is just more of that crazy science fiction stuff, consider the following facts about China:

For every 100 girls born in China, about 16 more new-born boys came into the world, according to national census statistics in 2000. In other countries, usually only five to seven more boys are born.

The result? Boys under the age of ten outnumber girls by millions.

Read more about IVF parents should choose baby's sex and Gender Imbalance Becomes Serious Problem in China. Thanks to Winchell Chung for providing the tip (and the quote) for this story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/25/2005)

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