Gender Selection Technology Works But Would You Do it?

October 24, 2016

Imagine this scenario, you’re a healthy mother who has a great husband. You enjoy being a parent, but after you’ve had seven healthy boys, you’re still hurting because you haven’t managed to give birth to a baby girl.

You’ve tried all of the natural remedies and methods of increasing your chance to have a girl — nothing works. You’re desperate for a girl. You’re not considering adoption. Instead, you’re looking for assistance from science. You fly to the United States, where gender selection is legal and you proceed with a procedure in which your embryo is modified and you can finally have a girl.

Believe it or not, this actually happened to an Australian couple, who was fortunate enough to have a healthy girl after seeking assistance from a fertility treatment centre in the United States.

The story gets more interesting. After they had their first daughter, they froze her twin embryo and flew back almost a year later to have the other inserted and do it all over again.

The story is fascinating, but in Canada, the UK, Australia and several other countries, gender selection is still against the law. Although it works, many are concerned about the ethical and moral significance of selecting one gender over the other. In addition, we’re at the point where science can determine the colour of eyes and other features of a baby.

The technology exists and it works but is it humane, would you do it?

How Does Gender Selection Work

In this video, Dr. Daniel Potter, a fertility expert discussed how he proceeds with gender selection saying,

“They take fertility drugs, they make many eggs, like regular in vitro fertilization, we create an embryo and when the embryo has about 120 cells, we can take two to three cells from the embryo, we can amplify the DNA, much like you would at a crime scene, and analyze that data and determine whether that data is genetically normal or not. We will eliminate down syndrome, turner syndrome, etcetera. And we’ll also know the gender.”

Dr. Norbert Gleicher, provided further clarification,

“Gender selection can be reliable if you use a reliable technology. There is quite a lot of gender selection being offered on the internet, in various practice settings, which is unproven. The most reliable method of gender selection is through the use of in vitro fertilization, where embryos are being produced and what is called preimplantation genetic diagnosis or preimplantation screening where these embryos are then tested to determine whether they are female or male embryos and then if one then only transfers the desired gender into the uterus of the woman one obviously has an extremely reliable methodology, close to 100% accurate…”

In Vitro Fertilization Gender Selection Procedure

  1. Eggs are extracted from the mother, sperm supplied by the father.
  2. In a lab, the father’s sperm fertilizes the egg.
  3. After a few days, several 8 cell embryos will develop.
  4. The doctors examine the embryos for gender.
  5. The desired embryos are implanted into the mother.
  6. Other embryos may be frozen or donated.
  7. Birth proceeds as normal.

source: The Fertility Institute

The Ethics of Gender Selection

One of the negative aspects of gender selection is the diminishment of one gender’s value in society, while others believe gender selection interferes with the natural process of childbearing.

There are others, who emphatically believe that gender selection will reinforce gender roles. Some experts have received pushback from religious institutions, after mentioning that they may also be able to select traits such as eye and hair colour.

Then there is also the question of freedom. Many women feel that in the same way that abortion is a right to choose what they do with their bodies, gender selection is a similar right.

Whether is right or wrong, it may be dependent on your viewpoints, but more families are turning towards gender selection to give them leverage in creating families.

Dr. Jane Frederick weighed in and mentioned the increase she’s noticed when it comes to gender selection, saying,

“I’ve seen so many more patients coming in, asking me for gender selection now, in a way, to balance their families. It’s interesting because we first started offering this treatment for genetic couples. Couples who had a certain sex-related disorder in their child and they were asking me to prevent that same disease in the next child. We were testing embryos genetically to test which one was male and female, for the genetic problems. But now, it has branched out to couples who are actually fertile, they already have two boys and they want a girl, or they have two girls and they want a boy. And I’ve seen about 80% of my couples requesting this are looking for a girl baby. So a lot of it is female driven. I feel like women want to have daughters and they are the ones that are pulling the strings…”

Gender Selection Statistics

Parents are happy with their children. Statistically speaking, based on geography, gender selection requests look like this:

  • Canadians primarily want girls
  • Americans and Germans are 50/50
  • Asian countries primarily want boys

Pros and Cons of Gender Selection

  • Gender selection using In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) with Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) is almost 100% accurate.
  • Remaining embryos can be frozen and stored for later use.
  • Better ability to plan a family (don’t have to give birth multiple times to have the family make up they prefer i.e.: 1 boy and 1 girl)
  • Prevention of gender-based genetic disorders
  • The cost for IVF with PGD starts at $20,000 USD.
  • Egg removal can be painful.
  • Fertility drugs have negative side effects.
  • The dilemma of having to decide what to do with unused embryos.
  • Ethical and moral implications

What Do You Think?

While gender selection is a moral debate in some circles, it has proven to thus far to be a safe option for choosing the gender of a child. While the practice is relatively still in its infancy and still illegal in Canada, gender selection could become widely available and accepted. What do you think? Would you do it? What about taking things a step further and using technology to select eye, skin and hair colour? Is that going too far?

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