Procedures such as cloning and sex selection were once reserved for tests on animals, and began in 1997 with Dolly, the cloned sheep. Since then, more controversial possibilities have arisen for genetic manipulation, and, with huge advancements in science, it is now actually legal for humans to genetically modify their children before implantation – and such modification is becoming increasingly popular in America. But how far is too far? Is it fair to modify your child to certain specifications before agreeing to a pregnancy? As you will soon find out, the growing trend of sex selection is said to have worried many scientists into believing that genetic mutations and gender inconsistencies could come from this ridiculous new fad.

Sex selection, otherwise known as ‘gender modification’, attempts to control the sex of an offspring through the implantation of embryos aimed to produce only a certain, and chosen, sex. For example, at present, eight out of ten couples in the UK would prefer a baby girl over a boy, meaning that 80 percent of households would be willing to pay out for sex selection procedures in order to gain the child they think they want. Of course, like many things, the growing popularity of sex selection has sparked concern and debate not only among scientists, but among members of the general public.

Tabloid magazine Closer recently published a debate asking the question ‘Is sex selection ok?’, and required readers to write in with their opinions. The most prominent response was, of course, against the procedure – many believe that it is unethical to manipulate the sex of your child before it is even born, and in doing so, to destroy the course of nature. One participant, Nicola, answers: ‘it’s dangerous – one sex could end up dramatically outnumbering the other’. Of course, one sex outnumbering the other could take years – but it could also prove to be a huge problem. If 80 percent of couples (as mentioned above) genetically modify their children to be girls, rather than relying on the 50/50 chance of naturally conceiving a girl, serious issues may arise with natural reproduction in years to come.

These procedures are, however, currently illegal in the UK, and hence it is becoming increasingly popular for British couples to travel out to the States in order to visit sex selection clinics and choose the sex of their babies. Although some couples partake in the procedures for genuine medical reasons, many are finding it difficult to believe that someone would only be happy giving birth to a certain sex. Surely, a parent’s love for their child should be unconditional, regardless of gender? Well, apparently not! One reader named Keelin from the Closer debate stated, ‘I have four boys and would love to have a girl. As long as sex selection isn’t harmful, then I’d definitely consider’. And, while this reader doesn’t state that a boy would go unloved, she does imply that a girl would be preferred – and many find it appalling that this is now the case for many British couples. What happened to the thrill of the surprise, of couples being totally neutral and praying only for a healthy baby? Well, due to modern technological and scientific advancement, those are days of the past for most people.

So, how do they do it? Well, the procedure is not unlike that of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) – eggs from the ovary are removed and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory procedure – only, the X and Y chromosomes are separated and only the preferred chromosome – X for a girl or Y for a boy – would be implanted; then, like IVF, the fertilised egg would be placed back into the uterus. Except, unlike IVF, which helps infertile couples, this procedure (when in America) serves couples of perfect fertility who would just prefer to have one gender over the other. What do you all think about this? Because many are left wondering whether it is fair that some are left unable to have children at all, while others are picking and choosing  – when, really, gender shouldn’t matter.

Recent talks have led to speculation over whether or not the procedure is going to be made legal in Britain, where demand is high for different modes of sex selection. But, of course, governments need to think about wider ethical issues, such as mutation and gender imbalances in the future, which may make even natural reproduction difficult. One reader from the Closer debate named Jacqui states that it is ‘messing with fate to choose’, and I don’t think I could have put it any better myself. It always has been and always should be a case of you get what you’re given, and be happy with it.

 

References:

Closer magazine, ‘you debate’, issue 607 (p.36) – Join in the Debate here: https://www.facebook.com/closermag 

http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=99542

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/place-lancashire/plain/A939918