I Need One Female Baby, an Order of Fries, and a Medium Coke to Go, Please

This article irked me. Essentially, it says that wealthy (and some not-so-wealthy) couples from all over the world are coming to the U.S. to have a fertility treatment called PGD (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis) done, as it's illegal in most other countries. As you can probably discern, this procedure is most often done when there's a genetic disease that one of the parents has the potential to pass on to his/her offspring. But these couples aren't getting PGD and IVF done for this reason. They're using it instead for gender selection. They're shelling out tens of thousands of dollars to have a child of their preferred sex.

And here's why I have a problem with this. I think gender selection presents a very slippery ethical slope. It doesn't seem far-fetched to me that down the line prospective parents will select physical and personality traits from a catalog before undergoing PGD and IVF to produce exactly the child they desire. Will brown-haired babies become a thing of the past? Will we have a generation chock full of six-foot tall athlethes? What does this say about what we as a society value in the human race, and what we view as defects?

This kind of treatment also infers that one gender is superior to the other, at least for these couples. They are not only shelling out a tremendous amount of money to produce a child of the gender they want, but at the same time, they are paying a doctor to ensure that they don't have a child of the gender they do not want. And they don't want that boy or girl so badly that they're willing to fly halfway across the globe, checkbook in hand, to ensure it. Something's wrong here.

And besides the obvious ethical questions this issue presents, I also have a problem with this as a former (and probably future) patient of an infertility clinic. These people, most of whom already have children, are clogging up already crowded fertility clinics where there is often a months-long waiting list just to get in. I had to wait three months to get into my clinic. And my guess is that these couples, with money in hand and without the hassle of insurance coverage issues, are speedily brought to the top of the waiting list, taking the slots that should be given to infertile women, most of whom have been waiting years for the chance to have a child, no matter what that child's gender happens to be.

So, what do you think? Is this issue just another privilege reserved for the rich (or the stupid, in the case of the middle-class couple interviewed in this article who are spending half their annual income to select their child's gender)? Or do you find this an example of extremely skewed and f-ed up priorities?

10 Responses to “I Need One Female Baby, an Order of Fries, and a Medium Coke to Go, Please”

  1. # Blogger Geekwif

    Irritating, infuriating, extremely skewed, and seriously messed up priorities. How anyone, rich or otherwise, could be so selfish and waste their money on something so incredibly ridiculous is way beyond my capacity to understand.  

  2. # Blogger Moose

    This seems to harken back to the days when girls were left on a hillside to die because they weren't worth the food they'd need to be fed.

    Maybe that's a tad extreme, but messing with this kind of thing seems an inordinately bad idea. I can understand not wanting to pass on a degenerative disorder but where is the line drawn? Who gets to draw that line? Didn't anyone see the Matrix? Don't mess with technology!

    We'd still be in caves if it were up to me, but this is clearly not a good idea.  

  3. # Blogger M

    There is a clinic here in the D.C area that does what is called "Microsort" where they sort the male from female sperm. This way you aren't discarding any embryos because it's male or female- you are just selecting the gender sperm to use.
    You can only use Microsort if you already have a child, and you can only choose the opposite sex. They call it "family balancing". So, since M & I are having a girl, if we wanted to do Microsort they would only allow us to have a boy.
    I'm not sure how I feel about it.  

  4. # Blogger Hopeful Mother

    I agree. As infertiles, we are happy with any child, be it spotted, polka-dotted or striped, as long as it's healthy.

    People using PGD solely for gender selection don't have a clue what to be thankful for in life. Someone should take all of their money for doing this, so they can think about how "important" gender really is to them.

    And you're right, there are definitely other deserving people's "spots" being taken by these selfish fiends. I am lucky that I don't go to a clinic, but a single dr.'s practice, so there was no real wait (only a few weeks), but if I had been waiting I would be even more angry...  

  5. # Blogger Christine

    I'm of the "skewed and messed up priorities" camp...

    What scares me is less of the choosing what gender a child is (even though it does leave open the possibility for extreme sexism), and more when it crosses another and yet another line until all of our children look like Ken and Barbie, as parents pick out their blonde straight haired children with blue eyes...etc, etc.  

  6. # Blogger Marie

    I don't agree with the whole designer baby / choose what features you'd like (sex, eye color,...) thing. Just because it's legal doesn't make it right, IMHO. But it doesn't seem to be OK to have opinions on right & wrong in our society any more. People just do as they please... whatever works for them. Selfish.  

  7. # Blogger l

    UGH! This makes me want to spit! Again, just because we have the technology doesn't mean we should USE it - or ABUSE it, in this case. Having a baby is not like going to the store and buying a new shirt. It's a blessing, not a consumer choise. I get the need to screening for genetic diseases. But like Yury Verlinsky says, "Sex is not a disease." Have we learned nothing from what's happening in China? Their one child law (which was meant to control population growth) resulted in baby girls being abandoned (then - if they were lucky - adopted by parents from other nations) or killed at birth (often drowned) so the parents could try again to have a boy. Now they're beginning to see its adverse effects: there's no one to care for the aging generation of elders - a role that Chinese culture assigns to daughters. You know what I would say to them? Drown your baby girl, coddle that little boy and enjoy it while you can. Because when you're old, bent over and can't feed yourself or go to the bathroom on your own, that same little boy will have become a man who will dump you some place and never visit. I have seriously considered adopting a girl from China because HOW UNFAIR IS THIS? Did you see The Dying Rooms? It's all about the mistreatment of baby girls in Chinese orphanages. It stuns me that there's such a lack of value placed on women - HELLO! We are the wombs of the world, people!

    Sorry. This is a HUGE hot button for me, as you can see. I have to go outside and spit now.  

  8. # Blogger Kristi

    Geekwif-Exactly.

    Moose-Yup. Using PGD to diagnose diseases that can be passed to male or female offspring is one thing. Using it to pick your child's gender based purely on arbitrary desire is quite another.

    M-The end result is the same as what this article talks about. It's still gender selection.

    Hopeful-Agreed. These people need some serious life lessons on exactly what's important in the grand scheme of things, and then they should be made to forfeit all their money to an infertile couple who can't afford IVF.

    Christine-I'm sure that's coming next. Scary.

    Marie-Selfish and completely out of touch with what's really important. Ugh!

    L-Yes! Exactly! Great points. Let's see China's population of men take care of a nation of their elderly parents. Right. I haven't seen that documentary, but now I definitely want to.  

  9. # Blogger Beagle

    Pretty disturbing, on many levels.

    Among other concerns, it bothers me that this kind of article gives the public an even more warped idea of what A.R.T. is all about. Also, when the fanatics get together to ban practises like these self serving variations on the actual purpose of PGD, then more likely than not those who need it for the intended purpose of PGD, lose access to the procedure too.

    Overall, rather sad.  

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