Sex-selective abortion and gender discrimination

Michelle Crotwell Kirtley

Michelle Crotwell Kirtley
February 10, 2014

Enacting a ban on sex-selective abortion and gender-selection technology would affirm a Christian vision of dignity for all human life, especially females.

February 10, 2014

Ellen painter Dollar's book "No Easy Choice" goes into PGD and faith at great length. (http://wp.me/p2EmLc-1Cz) Like you, she's appalled at using it for sex selection. But she points out that setting policies for PGD across the board is hard work that has not yet been completed.


Ellen Painter Dollar
February 10, 2014

I agree that using PGD for gender selection is an egregious misuse of this technology. The problem, however, goes far beyond the issue of gender selection. We in the U.S. have been loathe to broach ANY sort of guidelines for the use of burgeoning repro tech, including IVF, PGD, gamete donation, screening for genetic disorders, and surrogacy. This is partly due to our American investment in individual autonomy, as this author notes. But there's much more to it--the lucrative nature of fertility medicine, the somewhat but not entirely misplaced fear on the part of the pro-choice community that limiting one reproductive choice will lead to limiting all reproductive choices, and even the pro-life community's support of laws banning research involving human embryos, which means that nearly everything we know about reproductive technologies is based on human experimentation, on what happens to patients, and which contributes to the ad hoc nature of how these technologies are used and voluntarily regulated. We have a system that allows clinicians and patients to do almost anything, so long as it's technologically possible and someone is wiling to pay for it. Regulation is sorely needed. But any law to ban the use of PGD or prenatal diagnosis for gender selection would force us to look closely at other uses of the same technology, to screen for genetic disorders. Some see this difference as a no-brainer, thinking that of course it's okay to screen embryos or fetuses for disabling disorders, but not gender. Yet if you scratch below the surface, screening for genetic disorders raises many of the same issues as screening for gender--issues of commodification and suffering and parental desires and how we value human lives. So while regulation is needed, what needs to happen first is conversation--informed conversations that pay close attention to the lived stories of people who access these technologies and that aren't stunted by knee-jerk reactions based on one's position on abortion. As Tim says above, it's hard work. It's work that I and several colleagues are passionate about, but it's not easy. LIke the author, I am indeed appalled by gender selection. But we are not ready to make laws. First, we have to learn to talk (and listen) to one another in an informed and compassionate way.

Adam Shields
February 17, 2014

Is there evidence (serious question, I don't know) that the selection in the US is for boys? I agree the concept of sex selection is problematic. But honestly, I would think from my experience that it would be just as likely to be for girls as it would be for boys. I know when I talk to parents about what the would prefer, I do not here a strong call for boys over girls. Some people would prefer one over the other. But I hear girls prefered just as often in my circles. (Clearly I know antidote is not data. So I may be in an odd circle.)

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