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Sex selection shouldn't be option for parents

Jan. 28, 2004

Staff editorial

For many couples, having a child no longer means the surprise of finding out the baby's sex in the delivery room. The practice of determining a child's sex during pregnancy has become popular among expectant parents, but what about choosing the sex of your child before he or she is even conceived?

Scientific technology now has made it possible to place the choice of a child's sex in the parents' hands, through several fertilization processes similar to in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination.

The brave new world of baby making has arrived, and many American parents are jumping on the bandwagon to 'balance' their families, a Jan. 26 Newsweek article reports.

The Genetics and IVF Institute in Fairfax, Va. has signed 1,300 couples to its MicroSort 'family balancing' clinical trial for families who already have at least one child, but wish to 'control their family mix,' the magazine reports. One doctor said he's performed 100 sex selection procedures and has more families knocking at his clinic's doors.

One popular and almost 100 percent effective treatment called PGD involves mixing sperm and eggs in a lab dish, creating embryos outside of the womb, testing them for gender, then transferring them into a patient's uterus. Although in vitro fertilization, a similar process, has been available to parents who either can't conceive or who have a history of conceiving unhealthy children, several clinics are now offering the process to families who just want to pay the $18,000 fee of choosing a boy or a girl. MicroSort's process involves mixing a DNA-specific dye with sperm to sort the X's from the Y's, then using standard artificial insemination for conception. Unlike the PGD technique, MicroSort can only offer a 91 percent chance of success.

The ability to choose a child's sex raises many ethical questions about whether this technology is crossing a delicate line in human reproduction. Should science interfere with the natural sex selection process? By choosing their child's sex, are parents playing God? Or is it simply part of an individual's right to choose, just as many believe abortion is a woman's right to choose?

Another question arises as to what's next in reproductive medicine. Will humans be able to determine their child's intelligence, height or personality? The Lariat editorial board believes the social risks of this choice, such as skewing male to female ratios and sexism, outweighs the individual's right to choose. In addition, we believe the sex of a child should be left up to natural selection, allowing human reproduction to stay human, rather than become science.