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Gender Selection Comes Out of the Closet

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a blog by Robyn Nazar, RN, BSN, March 8, 2011

Gender selection isn't anything new. People have been trying to manipulate the sex outcome of their babies for as long as baby-making has existed. However, people used to be quite open about their efforts to have a boy or a girl and even swapped old wives tales (Oh! There are many of them!) on how to achieve the desired sex.

The irony is that now that we finally have the technology to select a baby's gender with nearly 100 percent accuracy, nobody is talking about it.


It's somewhat understandable. People don't want to appear biased against one sex or the other, especially when it comes to their own children. What would others think if they knew you paid the big bucks to have a little boy? Or would it be difficult to explain to your daughter why you took great measures to ensure that your next child after her was not another little girl? I get it. It's difficult to explain. However, rest assured, you are not alone.

You Are among Many Who Want to Choose the Baby's Sex

There are millions of couples, just like you, who are considering (or already have gone through) gender selection. In fact, each day hundreds of people get online and search for information about gender selection on the internet. Everybody's story and reasons are different and can range from medical to personal to social.

Up until about 20 years ago in the United States, gender selection was only acceptable for medical reasons. The technology available then would allow for couples to select the baby's gender in order to avoid passing along known sex-linked genetic disorders. Since then advances in technology, along with broadened social and industry acceptance, has made gender selection available to the public for a wide variety of purposes.

The most common of these purposes is called “family balancing,” which is simply the act of choosing one sex over an other in order to obtain both sexes within your family unit. Take, for example, a couple who only wants three children and already has two boys. It is not uncommon for a couple such as this one to seek genetic selection technology to ensure that they complete their family with a baby girl.

Breaking Through the Silence of Sex Selection

Unfortunately, and yet undeniably, there is a stigma that comes along with gender selection. This seems to stem primarily from both a general misconception about gender selection and the known abuse of gender selection in countries such as India and China.

Many believe that gender selection means discrimination against one sex. Others believe that it will lead to gender imbalances in the population, as has happened in China and India where boys tend to be the preferred gender.

However, the reality is that in the United States most reputable fertility clinics offering gender selection technology adhere to strict ethical standards. For example, many programs require that a couple be married or already have a child of the opposite sex. Furthermore, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) conducted a thorough ethical evaluation of gender selection for family planning and concluded that: “Sex selection aimed at increasing gender variety in families may not so greatly increase the risk of harm to children, women, or society that its use should be prohibited or condemned as unethical.”

Going Forward

Organizations such as “Generations Ahead” are working with fertility clinics, legislators and human rights groups to collaborate on creating more conversations about gender selection. These efforts are aimed not only to protect the fertility community against abusive practices, but to preserve the rights of families to make choices about their reproduction.

So, whether or not you are ready to come out of your gender selection closet, just know that if you do, there are many others just like you waiting to talk.

Comments (1)

We actually have the opposite issue. In order for us to have a healthy baby, after almost 4 years of trying to conceive with PCOS and MFI, and with two miscarriages under our belt, we used IVF with ICSI and PGS. We asked not to be told the embryos' gender until after transfer. With all our struggles, we really don't care what gender the baby is, we just want a healthy baby. However, because we now know from PGS that the transferred embryo is a girl, people have already assumed we did gender selection!

Our decision reflects no judgment at all on those who use PGS for gender selection, but we want people to understand our struggle, and our desperation for a healthy baby of any gender.

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