You are here
a blog by Claire, November 6, 2012
I have three sisters – we are a family of four girls. My Aunt and Uncle have four boys. Their fifth child is a girl. If my parents had kept trying, would I have finally had that brother I longed for? Would my parents have had a son? The odds of having a child of a particular sex are 50/50 with each try. Those odds simply don’t change. Unless of course, you decide to use “family balancing.”
With family balancing, parents choose the sex of their baby in order to have a child of the opposite sex of the child or children they have. The only proven form of gender selection involves the use of Preimplantation Genetic Screening or Diagnosis (PGS or PGD) with IVF. Success rates are just about 100%.
Gender selection for a first child should not be done except for medical reasons like sex linked diseases such as hemophilia, says Dr. Avner Hershlag, a fertility doctor with the Center for Human Reproduction, North Shore LIJ, in Manhasset, NY. “I think that it is inherently sexist,” he says. “If society was built so people had equal preference for males and females, you could start questioning, ‘why not?’. But since we know in general there is a preference for male gender as a first child, and sometimes only child, then it’s sexist. And we, fertility doctors, who are also gynecologists should be the biggest feminists among men, and maybe in general.”
What about sex selection for family balancing?
The Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) has made the following recommendations regarding family balancing:
• IVF with PGD solely for sex selection should be discouraged – it holds risk of unwarranted gender bias, social harm and the diversion of medical resources from genuine medical need.
• Ethical caution regarding PGD for sex selection calls for the study of the consequences of this practice.
“Since I do not consider embryos in the dish as having started life, because they have not been transferred into the womb and have not attached to the womb, diagnosis of gender, and the choice of the patient as to which embryos will transfer fits well with me,” Hershlag says. “And if I can help a family that feels incomplete or not happy enough having kids of one gender and wants to balance their family, I’m fine with that, and we agree to do it,” he adds.
In 2006, 42 percent of fertility clinics reported that they offered gender selection, and we know that’s only increased in the years since. Sex selection – not just for family balancing, but for medical reasons primarily, and also social reasons - recently has been reported to generate millions of dollars for fertility practices, although many don’t advertise that they offer it. PGD has made huge advances in recent years, and with that comes choice and opportunity for families and their doctors.