The issue on whether parents should be allowed to choose the sex of their baby has been a major controversial issue in the recent past that has attracted huge debates between proponents and opponents of such practice. This issue has received huge attention because of long-term use of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) to help pregnant women in the United States and across the globe. This technology basically involves the transfer of fertilized human embryos into a woman's uterus through in vitro fertilization (IVF). Advances in Assisted Reproductive Technology have contributed to various innovations such as Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis, which enables parents to choose prenatally the sex of their offspring (Bumgarner, 2007, p.1289). This technology enables parents to select the sex of their babies through the use of medical techniques. While it is considered as a major breakthrough in reproductive health, Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis has been surrounded with bioethical concerns and debate.
Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis:
As previously mentioned, Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) is a by-product of advances in Assistive Reproductive Technology that allows parent to select the sex of their offspring through medical techniques. Preimplantation processes basically occur before the embryo or sperm is set up into the woman's body. This technique has emerged as an alternative to sperm-sorting since it is the process through which embryos in vitro are scanned for genetic disorders and sex. Once the eggs are removed from the woman and fertilized in vitro, one cell i.e. blastomere is withdrawn from a cleaving embryo and examined for certain genetic conditions (Bumgarner, 2007, p.1294). Even though this procedure destroys the test cell since it must be attached to a glass slide and heated and cooled severally, it does not destroy the growing six-to-ten embryo. This is primarily because all the cells in the embryo during this phase of development are totipotent i.e. have all potential and can be distinct into any kind of human cell. Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis is a technique that merely halts cell division for a short period of time, which the embryo rapidly overcomes to carry on its anticipated development. After this, the embryos with the desired genetic attributes are then implanted in the woman's body.
PGD has received huge attention in recent years because of its ability to ward off approximately 50% likelihood of transferring some genetic abnormalities through the opportunity for potential parents to select in vitro only healthy embryos for implantation (Bumgarner, 2007, p.1294). However, the use of this technique is associated with hefty costs, which is a major disadvantage.
Should Parents Select their Offspring's Sex?
The existing controversies regarding new reproductive technologies are usually based on PGD technique as a practice that requires extensive legal, ethical, and social evaluation (Robertson, 2003, p.213). Based on recent indications and statistics, the use of this procedure has been growing just like the bioethical issues related to it have also increased. Actually, the procedure is ethically controversial since it involves the screening and probable destruction of embryos and the selection of a baby based on anticipated characteristics. In addition to other techniques, PGD has contributed to the emergence of concerns on whether parents should be able to select the sex of their offspring. This issue is characterized with arguments and counterarguments that are not only based on its merits and demerits but also on ethical and medical issues of such practice.
According to Professor JA Robertson, a law professor, Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD), a technique that permits parents to determine the gender of their embryo for implantation in the uterus, should be allowed. In his argument, the professor states that it is not sexist to want a baby to be a specific sex and that the practice should not be restricted. In essence, allowing parents to select the sex of their offspring through PGD has considerable medical and non-medical advantages. One of the advantages that support the use of the procedure to allow parents to choose the sex of their offspring is the fact that it promotes early detection of diseases like Alzheimer's disease and cancer through scientific means. Parents should be allowed to choose their offspring's sex because it gives them an opportunity to screen their embryos for any diseases that can later affect the growth and development of their fetuses.
Secondly, gender selection through Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis should be allowed because of non-medical reasons or advantages such as sexual orientation, intelligence, physical attributes, and perfect pitch. For instance, the technique enables parents to choose the gender of their future children, particularly if they have more than a single child. Therefore, the procedure would help promote gender variety in a family if parents are allowed to use in choosing the sex of their offspring.
Third, the use of PGD for selecting the sex of a baby is strengthened by the fact that it lessens the risk of sexism. For example, if a couple is selecting the sex of their future children, the choice will be made on the basis of gender variety rather than favoritism of one gender over another. Consequently, gender selection will take place without the risks of promoting sexism and hurting women (Robertson, 2007, p.215).
While there are numerous arguments in support of parents being allowed to choose the sex of their baby, there are equally convincing counterarguments against the practice. One of the counterarguments is the belief that Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis can create consumer eugenics (Darnovsky, 2004, p.3). Marcy Darnovsky argues that this technique could also contribute to the emergence of consumer eugenics since this procedure has become famous in the commercial sector to an extent that parents can easily determine what their child is going to be. The likelihood of emergence of consumer eugenics is also attributed to the fact that would-be parents are provided with a chance to treat their children as commercial items instead of being considered as human beings.
Secondly, the practice is opposed on the basis that it is a form of sexism because of the ability of parents to choose the sex of their future children. The probability of sexism is attributed to the likelihood of parents to change their future daughters for sons and vice versa in order to fit into a specific social standard. Therefore, PGD and other technologies that allow parents to choose the sex of their children are sexist tools that are likely to spread the ideal that one sex is superior to the other. Moreover, these procedures and practice have the ability to promote and enhance sexism and gender inequality.
Third, embryos that are used in preimplantation procedures should be considered as persons or subjects with rights. Therefore, destroying theses embryos during medical processes can be equated to violation of human rights. Fourth, the selection of a baby's sex during the preimplantation process can contribute to numerous effects on the offspring. The process actually leads to commodification of children who are seen as objects to satisfy their parental wishes rather than unique human beings (Robertson, 2005, p.99). The selection of an offspring's genes will undermine his/her welfare through allowing parents to determine how he/she will grow and develop.
Based on an analysis of arguments and counterarguments on whether parents should be permitted to select the sex of their offspring, the practice should not be permitted because of various factors. First, the consideration of the right to choose a child's characteristics as a reasonable extension of the right to decide on whether to bear children as presented in arguments supporting this practice is a concept that conceals various social issues linked to reproduction. This idea of procreative freedom ignores ways that power relations stratify the reproduction processes of different people (Bhatia, 2010, p.274).
Secondly, in his argument in support of the practice, Professor Robertson advocates for a market approach where freedom of choice is regarded as the eventual good despite of the context of these decisions and different ways women use to make the choices based on their social location. Therefore, this practice is likely to contribute to a trend where women are forced to make such decisions given that seemingly disadvantaged women encounter several limitations on their ability to make decisions regarding reproduction or procreation. Moreover, there is likelihood that women with financial resources to access these technologies can be constrained by the commercialization of reproduction. In essence, new technologies would represent a limitation instead of expansion of the actual choice of individuals.
Third, this practice should be restricted because it is primarily reminiscent of eugenics and leaning towards the commodification of children. When parents are allowed to choose the sex of their offspring, it is increasingly likely that we will have a society where people are allowed to tailor-make other human beings. This is a violation of human rights since every individual should be treated as human rather than a commercial good.
In conclusion, the issue on whether parents should be allowed to choose the sex of their baby has emerged because of advances in Assisted Reproductive Technology, especially Preimplantation Genetic…