Term Paper: Gender Selection Ethics History Attests

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[. . .] Ethics Committee of the American Society selection for Reproductive Medicine summarized these concerns in a 2001 report on pre-conception gender. The report clearly stated the ethical issues raised by gender selection techniques:

One concern is the potential of such techniques to increase or reinforce gender discrimination, either by allowing more males to be produced as first children or by encouraging parents to pay greater attention to gender itself. A second concern is the welfare of children born as a result of gender selection, who may be expected to act in certain gender-specific ways when the technique succeeds and who may disappoint parents when it fails. A third concern is societal. Widely practiced, preconception gender selection could lead to sex ratio imbalances, as have occurred in some parts of India and China because of female infanticide, gender-driven abortions, and a one-child family policy." (Ethics Committee of the American Society selection for Reproductive Medicine: 2001)

Even though some people argue that preference for a child of specific gender doesn't exist in western societies, it has been found that even though mild, the preference certainly exists in advanced countries as well. Sociologists Gerald Markle and Charles Nam (1971) surveyed Florida college students to find out about the structure of their ideal families. It was discovered that for every 100 girls, 122 boys were desired showing a clear if not too pronounced a preference for male child. Many American couples desire a small family and while they may want an equal number of girls and boys, most parents want their first born to be a male. This can result in further ethical problems as the first child usually gets more attention and is more aggressive than other children. If every couple would desire a first male child then this can result in a more submissive female population.

Feminist medical student Liana Clark (1985, p. 4) wrote:

The] preference for the male first-born is a function of the patriarchal society in which we live. Given a different social context, where women were empowered with a strong sense of selfhood, parents would be more inclined to choose female children over male ones. As it stands, men are more in control of the world, and parents want their firstborn to have the advantage of being able to compete on the best footing in society.... If sex pre-selection were allowed, women would indeed be relegated to a second-class status.

Though a lesser concern, gender stereotyping can lead to problems for the child since he/she might be expected to behave in more gender-specific manner than he/she is naturally inclined to exhibit. Gender selection is directly connected with knowing "not only what the fetus is, but what we expect the child to become" (Rothman, 1986, p. 127; Rubin Provenzano, and Luria, 1974).

Clearly, gender selection is a controversial practice that not only raises serious ethical quandaries but may also prove to be a dangerous practice in the long run. Apart from sex-ratio imbalance, the practice might lead to social resentment and frustration making low-income groups opt for less expensive though dangerous means of gender selection such as abortion. Pre-natal diagnosis for medical reasons is in itself an ethically controversial technology but when used for non-medical purposes, it simply signifies abuse of advanced medical technologies.


Clark Liana R. 1985. "Sex Preselection: The Advent of the Made-to-Order Child." The Pharos, Fall, pp. 2-7

Elizabeth Mathiot-Moen-author; Annette Burfoot - editor Encyclopedia of Reproductive Technologies Publisher: Westview Press. Boulder, CO. 1999.

Fletcher John C. 1980."Ethics and Amniocentesis for Fetal Sex Identification." Hastings Center Report 10: 15-18.

Gargan Edward A. 1991. "Ultrasonic Tests Skew Ratio of Births in India." New York Times, June 13.

Kristof Nicholas D. 1993b. "Peasants of China Discover New Way to Weed out Girls." New York Times, July 21, pp. A1, A4.

Markle Gerald., and Charles B. Nam. 1971. "Sex Predetermination: Its Impact on Fertility." Social Biology 18(1): 73-83.

Preconception gender selection for non-medical reasons: Ethics Committee of the American Society selection for Reproductive Medicine: ETHICS COMMITTEE REPORT FERTILITY AND STERILITY: VOL. 75, NO. 5, MAY 2001

Rothman Barbara Katz. 1986. The Tentative Pregnancy. New York: Viking Press.

Rubin, Jeffrey, Frank Provenzano, and Zella Luria. 1974. "The Eye of the Beholder: Parents' Views on Sex… [END OF PREVIEW]

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