Early fetal gender test demands rapid ethical policymaking

t ask whether people would prefer to have a boy or a girl show that, at least in Western countries, the sex-ratio is unlikely to change considerably.

The desire to choose the sex of our offspring is not new it has been part of human culture for millennia. However until recently there has been no successful method of achieving this goal.

Now that methods, like sperm selection and non-invasive methods of testing an embryo's sex, are becoming available, the issue is moving from one of mild interest, to one that needs serious consideration.

"It will be very difficult for governments to stop people who want to use these new techniques," says Frank van Balen who works at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Science at the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The question then is whether this use will alter the gender balance within the population.

Many initial comments suggest that these tools will create a population with more boys than girls, but van Balen thinks this is not necessarily the case.

While 'son preference' tends to be stronger that 'daughter preference', recent surveys show increased 'daughter preference' particularly among women. Given that abortion laws give the woman the decision-making power over a termination, the argument that sex selection should be barred because it would discriminate against women may not be so strong.

'Light' sex selection methods, especially those known not to be effective, enjoy a high degree of social acceptance. But it will also be interesting to see how attitudes change as people get used to the presence of technologies that 'work'.

Review Title: Van Balen, F: Attitudes towards sex selection in the Western world: Prenatal Diagnosis, DOI: 10.1002/pd.1471

Most people do not favour sex selection

Surveys conducted to date show that, overall, people have negative attitudes towards sex selection for non-medical reasons, particula

Contact: Polly Young
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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