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Survival of the Sex Selected?

gender selection

a blog by Suzanne Rico, May 10, 2012

I really wanted girls. This is not a politically correct admission ('I don’t care, as long as it’s healthy' is better) but it’s true. As one of three sisters, with six aunts and two nieces, I understood women, but little boys, with their fart jokes and Star Wars games, were strange creatures I largely ignored as an adult. Still, after several failed IVFs, when it came time to decide whether to test our cache of mediocre-looking embryos to select for sex, my husband and I opted against it. We figured we were already pushing our luck with Mother Nature.

But what if I had seven? Seven cootie collecting, roughhousing, dirt-loving little boys? This is the case of Jodi and Andrew McMahon, an Australian couple who came all the way to Southern California to do IVF for gender selection because it’s illegal in their country ("60 Minutes Australia" followed their story, and you can see that here). Since the McMahons didn’t want to gamble on having a girl again, they turned to Dan Potter, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist with HRC Fertility, to fulfill their gender dreams.

“The feeling of helping people attain the family they’ve always wanted is what gets me up in the morning early and keeps me at the office late,” says Dr. Potter, who sees about 20 couples a month looking for help with sex selection. “The McMahons had been trying for a girl for a long time. Who can say they don’t deserve that if the technology is available to them?”

The issue of gender selection is an ethics professor’s dream. In addition to Australia, selecting for gender solely for the purpose of “family balancing” is banned in New Zealand, Germany, the U.K. and Canada, among others. The fear is that it is the first step to designer babies and gender imbalance, but Dr. Potter disagrees. He thinks genetic testing — whether to identify embryos with chromosomal problems or to select sex — is the wave of the future.

“PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis) will be as common as having an amnio is today, down the road,” predicts Dr. Potter. “Especially if you are of advanced maternal age. Some people will choose not to, but every one should have access to it.”

What I think is that while there must be some people who truly don’t care if they have a boy or a girl, it is natural to want a certain gender. And if I had seven boys in a row? First, I would need a straight jacket because I can hardly handle the two I have, and second, I can only imagine how much I might long for a Barbie-loving, frilly dress wearing, pig-tailed little girl. But while I am beyond thankful to the reproductive science that gifted me two boys, the idea that I might have “un-selected” them via genetic testing leaves me slightly nauseous and stuck in the category of “undecided."

What do you think?

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