Think you'd like to have a girl? You could try eating chocolate, having sex under a full moon, making sure your baby daddy wears boxers or employing new flow cytometric separation technology to separate the X chromosome-bearing sperm from the Y and using the enriched fraction of sorted sperm to achieve pregnancy. And according to an article in AlterNet (via Women's eNews), more and more parents -- in the interest of "family balancing," in both directions -- are plunking down big chunks of change to do the latter.
The sorting process is often used in conjunction with a technique called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), wherein embryos created via in vitro fertilization may be screened for serious, if not life-threatening genetic disorders, particularly those that parents know they're at risk of transmitting. According to this article (if I understand the rather vague wording correctly), a 2006 report by the Washington-based Genetics and Public Policy Center found that 42 percent of fertility clinics offering PGD made it available for nonmedical sex selection.
And more often than not, according to "fertility professionals," parents are trying to select for girls. (The piece also states that "up to 80 percent of U.S. families choose to try for girls," a stat that clearly lacks a bit of context. Also, one doctor interviewed said that in his experience, it's 50/50.) In any regard, compare and contrast: China, India.
The article states ominously, and predictably, that "ethicists say the practice is on slippery ground" -- but then, oddly, never really gets any ethicists to come out and say so. The American Medical Association has neither endorsed nor condoned it; the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, in Birmingham, Ala., says the practice is ethical when the couple does not have "unrealistic expectations about the behavior of children of the preferred gender." One doctor quoted says we need to make sure technology doesn't too far outpace discussion (who would disagree?); another (a clinic director, it should be noted) basically shrugs. "We've been accused of being on the slippery slope for 20 years. The future's maybe a bit scarier than things are right now," he says, referring to the putative day when Gattaca Fertility Associates will be able to sort DNA for much more than gender.
That's it? I'm truly surprised that they couldn't get one person to say, "Hey, it's a free -- slash, expensive -- country, but it's a little questionable to do such somersaults to try to choose Jane over Dick." (Or should I say, Caden over Hayden? Wait, which is which?) Of course, we could acknowledge that, to the degree that they do, it's a sign of ... well, something that certain American parents appear to actively prefer girls. Though I'm guessing that those who do aren't saying to themselves, "I'd like to have a girl so that she can experience the full measure of her equality."
Ethical and sociopolitical considerations aside, my immediate reaction also comes from the gut. I'm uncomfortable with the implication that a child's gender is an -- the -- essential element of his or her identity, the implication that to have a girl, or a boy, is to know what your kid will be like. That's not a political statement about "social construction of gender," it's a personal one about being open to the full mystery and miracle of parenting. I am also inclined to agree with Dr. Shrug, above. We absolutely, positively have to talk, and fast, about what lies close ahead on this slope, and fancy fertility technology as a whole will always have its quite reasonable detractors. Even so, we shouldn't let the availability of -- and perhaps overblown publicity about -- such luxury treatments obscure what the state of the art has made possible for parents who simply want a healthy child -- girl or boy.
-- Lynn Harris
Print Permalink [15:49 EST, Sept. 5, 2007]
Here are some less-than-intelligent letters that are in reply to this article:
I tried for a girl and I got a girl.
I used certain folk medicine-type techniques. Did they work? Who knows. I can only say that
I am happy with the results and the only expense I had was a basal thermometer and some vinegar.
I see nothing wrong with the sex selection of future progeny by individual parents. (I would see plenty wrong if this were some sort or government policy or driven by government policy.) Every child should be highly desired and I yearned for a daughter. At the time, I did not really understand the source of my yearning. Now I do. I grew up as the slightly older sibling to three boys. I had enormous responsibility for the care of my younger brothers. I was not really old enough to have such responsibility and certain aspects of it left their mark. For instance, when my brothers did anything wrong, I was often blamed.
Dealing with three active little boys when you are young yourself can be almost traumatic. Always, I had longed for a sister close to my age with whom I could share confidences and who would vote on MY SIDE to watch something besides westerns on television.
If the techniques I used actually had some influence on my having the daughter I wanted, all I can say is that I am not one bit sorry.
-- AKA Smith
[Read AKA Smith's other letters]Permalink Wednesday, September 5, 2007 01:24 PM
So basically all this bitch cares about is controlling the TV. Hell,she can stay single and childless to accomplish that goal.
This article is a -little- less biased but just stops short of applauding more girls over boys. But it came really close.
What happens when, even when according to all tests, measurements and assurances, that you've ended up with a boy? There's bound to be a time where, even with the best of medical science, something doesn't go quite right? Eject the boy then, and try again for a girl?
That's where the article didn't touch, and could have. But this is broadsheet, and we all know how broadsheet is when it comes to men vs. women. On one hand it's good to start having more girls to equalize the glut of boys in China,India, and other places where the gender disparity is appalling. Maybe when the boys grow up, it won't be 20 boys for every girl, maybe not - all depends if the women find China or India an attractive place to move to. Or if the boys save up their farm wages, and hop a plane over(thus leaving their families who depend on them to survive). Time will tell.
[Read d0k0night's other letters]Permalink Wednesday, September 5, 2007 01:43 PM
Hey dorko,what about the western men? We're still going to be here.
It has been pretty well established that girls are less likely to suffer genetic diseases such as autism, have higher median IQ, and are less likely to kill themselves by doing dumb things.
As such, it's not entirely irrational to shoot for girls in a society where the incentive to choose boys (extra manual help in the rice paddy) no longer exists in any meaningful fashion, if your objective is to maximize your offspring's well being.
BTW, as a guy who channles his inner Man Show from time to time, I'm not sure I'm all that bothered with this particular "slippery slope" where the world will be overwhelming female :-)
 Although the high standard distribution of IQ among boys means that they are
over-represented in the "genius" category, and equally, the higher proportion of boys who are clinically retarded.
-- clone12 [Read clone12's other letters]Permalink Wednesday, September 5, 2007 02:03 PM
Hey clown,it ain't going to be the playboy fantasy that you think it's going to be. It's going to be a castration camp,but then again maybe you're little mangina ass would love that.
Thats a very good point.
A society in which women outnumber men 2:1 or more would certainly put the sexual power in the hands of the men.
Sounds like fun to me!
-- Shadow [Read Shadow's other letters]Permalink Wednesday, September 5, 2007 02:20 PM
2nd mangina to weigh in.
Always, in these matters, there is come guy chiming in about getting shot at. Not a small consideration, I admit. However, given that the modern nature of combat positions open to women in today's military also put them at risk of getting shot at women who volunteer are also in harm's way.
(No,women are not put in combat units as it pertains to U.S. law.)While it is true that only men register for the draft, does anyone seriously think that that would survive a court challenge for long if the draft were reinstated, which it could be in almost an instant? (I read about one woman,I don't know if she was doing it for a publicity stunt or what,who tried to register for selective service and they threatened her with arrest and legal action if she did not cease and desist,which she did.)Read up if you don't believe me. We will never long have a draft in the future without women also going. It is because our troops are stretched so thin now that, if we do take action against Iran, it will be in the form of a surgical strike that might even involve nukes.
I tell my daughter to be ready for the possibility of a draft in a "national emergency." We may not have a draft now but "the war on terror" is forever, courtesy of the neo-cons. I always tell my daughter this: "If you get a yen to sleep with a woman, please document it. See if you can actually get an affidavit for your future draft board." I suspect we will draft women before the military will ever give up its prejudice against homosexuals. (No,the military will put homosexuals in their own unit before sending women into combat.)-- AKA Smith
[Read AKA Smith's other letters]Permalink Wednesday, September 5, 2007 02:26 PM
My friend has a mildly autistic son by the time she was ready for another, she needed IVF, and they did what they could to conceive a girl because autism runs in her family and is more common in males. She did have a girl and has since told me that the girl is way more demanding than the boy ever was, even with his special needs. You never can tell. My girl, who never stops chatting, is far more demanding than my boy (who isn't exactly taciturn).
What I find interesting in reading these letters is how perplexed people seem to be that others might prefer girls, as though preferring boys--the longest-standing preference in history--is the only understandable stance. It seems clear to me that since our society has become increasingly automated, computerized and achievement oriented, the stereotypical female traits of compliance and helpfulness are more valued. No longer do we live in a society where sheer brawn is necessary.
-- BettyBoop [Read BettyBoop's other letters]Permalink Wednesday, September 5, 2007 04:15 PM
Was this true of 9/11? Or more recently the bridge collapse in Minnesota?
China and India have way more boys than girls
at this point . . . the thinkers who ponder such things have pointed out that this will make these two countries increasingly unstable as the boys age and have no one to marry--too many young males in a society is dangerous to the society.
Only in a matriarchy such as the one we have in the western world.
But my point is: all of you men who think having a surplus of girls will get you laid more,no matter how many girls we breed in this country, we're never going to match the surplus of males in the non-Western world. Maybe by the time this crop grows up, globalization will have calmed racist tendencies, and the American girls will marry the Asian boys, thereby saving the globe from mayhem.
Women aren't going to give a fuck about anything but themselves so it looks like the world is fucked.
-- BettyBoop [Read BettyBoop's other letters]Permalink Wednesday, September 5, 2007 04:23 PM