Everyday Ethics

Everyday Ethics

Buying Your Child’s Gender: Would You Do It?

This comes to no surprise to those of you who have heard various versions of my emphatic utterances “I’m in no shape to have or raise a baby right now thank ye very much,” but I must say I’m fairly ignorant about the next generation science of babymaking. So I was interested in reading this report on choosing your child’s gender.

Somehow over the years it escaped my notice that picking “boy” or “girl” had become as commonplace (scientifically speaking) as picking chocolate or vanilla. And I certainly did not know that the practice was banned in several countries.

Of course, the technique, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), had a different intended purpose — it’s meant to screen for genetic flaws. Here in the United States, however, one can use PGD to create the perfect family, for a cost (about $18,000).


I may not be ready to have children, but I already know how I feel about using this technique to choose my baby’s gender — I’m pretty firmly against. Conceptually, I suppose I feel my child has a right to a fair chance, even in his/her most basic state. Even starting from the sperm meets egg point. To me, it is more about believing in fate (or perhaps faith).

Ethically, I’m not so sure. I am staunchly pro-choice, and saying I believe it is unethical for a woman to choose the gender of her child yet ethical to choose to terminate that same life makes no logical sense to me. Yet I’m also sure that there are many others in my position who feel a fundamental distaste at this type of genetic manipulation.

What about you? If you had the means to choose the gender of your child, would you?


Comments read comments(8)
post a comment
Charles Cosimano

posted December 9, 2009 at 11:05 am

It isn’t something I would have done if I ever had had children, but I can see no rational objection.

report abuse


posted December 9, 2009 at 12:31 pm

I have read that something like this (selective abortion of “undesired” sex of fetus) is practiced in China, where parents overwhelmingly choose to have a boy…is it wise to put the future of our species up to the whims of the propagators? I don’t think so!!

report abuse

Steve Allen

posted December 10, 2009 at 12:05 am

“I am staunchly pro-choice, and saying I believe it is unethical for a woman to choose the gender of her child yet ethical to choose to terminate that same life makes no logical sense to me.” I agree Padmini, it makes no logical sense.
To my way of thinking, we are EITHER accidental accumulations of atoms, and our actions and experiences are without moral weight, OR “faith” as you put it, (ie that we were created by God) has a place, and our actions and experiences do matter.
I cannot see the logic of the person who asserts both that we evolved from the primordial soup and that we have any moral obligations to anyone at all.
Personally, I am of the latter view – that we are ultimately accountable to the god who created us – and that means I would always let him choose the gender of my children, and that I’m pro-life. That’s because I believe he knows better than I do.

report abuse


posted December 10, 2009 at 3:30 am

Charles Cosimano is right. There is no rational reason to object to this. There is an ethical objection, but it applies to a different, though related situation.
First, something we should not overlook: this is only a posibility when using IVF – it has no effect on babies conceived the old-fashioned way.
Of course, there are those who believe that IVF itself is evil (Hi, Erin), and they can stop reading here.
Speaking from some experience, I am aware that IVF is on the increase, but I don’t see any couple using it when the ahem, time-honoured way of doing it is available. The side effects of all those hormone shots are not fun. Nor have I ever met a doctor who would apply IVF without first checking if the couple have been trying to conceive naturally. In our case, we went through three attempts at AI before going the IVF route (Unsuccessful, if you must know. We adopted).
But yes, in an IVF procedure you produce a dozen or so blastocysts. Only 3 or 4 are normally implanted, in the hope that one or two will survive. The rest … well, let’s not bs ourselves, they go into the medical waste bin.
So if a choice of one in three is to be made anyway, there is no reason to make that choice random. Indeed, if the family wants a boy, one can argue that the child will be more completely accepted and have a better life if it is, in fact a boy. So why not implant only the blastocysts that are going to end up being boys? And as we learn more about genetics, no doubt we will be able to specify further: “let’s try the one with the dark hair and blue eyes”
Whether you do it like this or pick them at random, you will give four blastocysts a shot at existing, and wash eight others down the drain. The basis on which you, or the doctor, makes that choice is irrelevant. If doing this is wrong, then it is a wrongness you decided on when you first walked into the doctor’s office. If it is not, the same applies.
Leslie brought up the Chinese situation. But that is quite different. There we are looking at the aborting of naturally conceived fetuses, sometimes well into the second trimester. Different arguments apply
“pro-choice” is supposed to be about compassion for women who are pregnant yet are in one way or another unable to raise a child. It is an all-or-nothing proposition. Either you have the child or you abort.
This is something different. It is a matter of wanting a child and being able to raise one, just not THIS one.
If the argument was that the child carries a genetic disease and would be born into a life of unremitting pain and misery, then one might say OK, go ahead and abort, but people don’t normally die from being the third girl/boy in the family. If abortion starts to be practiced for entirely frivolous reasons like this, the pro-choice faction might as well give up, for they will have lost the argument.

report abuse


posted December 10, 2009 at 11:33 am

Clasqm made some interesting points.
The last paragraph uses a little word I would like to address. That word is “IF”. Shouldn’t that be “WHEN”? because we know people are doing exactly that?
Also, how does aborting a fetus (unborn baby for the less sophisticated)in the second trimester seem more repulsive than throwing out the extra blastocytes (tiny baby for the less sophisticated)? Perhaps your use of “blastocysts” instead of the correct spelling of the word is an indication of your understanding of what you are dealing with. A “cyst” is something you cut out as abnormal and harmful.
We are framing our arguments with words that have meanings and connotations. “Baby” is plainly understood by most as living, “Cute” and valuable. Using another word (synonym) can somehow allow us to pass over the reality of who we are affecting by our actions.
It is hard sometimes when a movement has to live with the results of their own verbal sleight-of-hand to justify something repulsive at all stages.

report abuse


posted December 10, 2009 at 1:36 pm

I’m wrong about the term currently used for the baby at this stage. A blastocyte is an earlier stage where the sex of the baby cannot be determined. At the blastocyst stage you can.
My main point is that some are squeamish about killing babies in later stages of life because they look more like individuals after they leave the birth canal but are less so at earlier stages of life when they are less recognizably “human”. Why? Ethically, I see no logical reason to make it “wrong” to interfere with someone’s right to live (read “kill” for the less sophisticated) at ANY stage of its existence unless there is some Creator we are responsible to.
When is it OK to kill someone? When someone can no longer respond verbally? When they cease from gainful employment? When they can no longer procreate? When they need glasses?
I would maintain that life is precious at both ends of the cycle of life.

report abuse


posted December 10, 2009 at 5:53 pm

As one who has done IVF for fertility reasons and chose to do PGD, I can tell you that doing PGD does not ensure anything. While my husband and I wanted a girl with our most recent round of IVF (we already have a son from a prior IVF cycle), all the embryos except one (we had nine to choose from) came back as having chromonsomal problems (what PGD told us). The only viable one remaining was a boy embryo, and, since IVF is not something you go through lightly, we chose to transfer that embryo, despite the fact that we had wanted a girl.
As it turned out, that embryo developed into a pregnancy but eventually stopped growing and I had a D&E. Now our fertility doc is telling us that PGD may give too much information–and indicate that there are chromosomal problems where perhaps they don’t exist. (PGD checks one cell of an embryo; perhaps the rest of the embryo is fine while that one cell was not).

report abuse

Pingback: Can There Be Morals Without Religion? - Everyday Ethics

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

More Blogs To Enjoy!
Thank you for visiting Everyday Ethics. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Idol Chatter Most Recent Inspiration blog post Happy Reading! ...

posted 3:53:05pm Sep. 07, 2012 | read full post »

Coding Ethics...
Internet activist and New York Times bestselling author of The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You, Eli Pariser is concerned that information gatekeepers of the past (i.e. editors/reporters) have been replaced by algorithms that ...

posted 2:49:15pm Jan. 22, 2012 | read full post »

Can Ethical Companies Do Business With Unethical Leaders?
Coca-cola has been accused of "propping up a notorious Swaziland dictator" whose human rights abuses and bilking of the national wealth has long been criticized by human rights activists. According to Guardian UK reporter David Smith**, ...

posted 3:49:39pm Jan. 02, 2012 | read full post »

New Years Resolutions: Are We Lying to Ourselves?
I know it's become popular, but I've become suspect of using traditional goal-setting strategies and business process techniques to change personal habits and pursue a meaningful life. While I can admit that there's something invigorating--even ...

posted 10:51:42pm Jan. 01, 2012 | read full post »

Is Craigslist Who We Really Are?
Raise your hand if you're familiar with  Chances are, there's one that serves your community.  And it's extremely handy for job listings, housing, dating, selling your old crap or buying new old crap.Really, it's ...

posted 9:15:55am Dec. 18, 2009 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.