and mainstreaming of social sex selection continue to gather
force. A Newsweek cover (January 26, 2004) featured two
blonde babies, one diapered in pink, the other in blue. They
were accompanied by the headline, "Girl or Boy? Now You
Can Choose. But Should You? The New Science of Sex Selection."
The Newsweek story, titled
"Brave New Babies," describes the use of services
now being marketed to allow prospective parents to pre-select
a boy or a girl simply because that's what they want-and to
do so before getting pregnant. Sex selection using either embryo
screening (known as pre-implantation diagnosis, or PGD), or
an experimental sperm-sorting method that is being offered under
the trademarked name MicroSort, does not require aborting a
fetus of the "wrong" sex.
Though Newsweek notes that
these procedures not only "answer prayers" but also
"raise some troubling questions," its pictorial and
narrative focus is on happy couples who have availed themselves
of "the new science of sex selection" and who are
satisfied with the results. See:
The Wall Street Journal recently
covered social sex selection not as a news story but as a consumer
item. A column on the paper's Personal Health page ("Boy
or Girl? Stacking the Deck," March 30, 2004) lists a number
of do-it-yourself sex selection kits for which "the science
behind the claims is scanty," as well as the MicroSort
method. It warns of the time, effort, and cost of sex selection,
but doesn't mention any social or ethical concerns.
A front-page story in the San
Francisco Chronicle ("Parents bypassing doctors to
sneak a peek at baby," April 7, 2004) reported on "prenatal
portrait studios" that are "geared to be family fun."
The article's emphasis is on warnings by the FDA and a number
of doctors about the potential risks of ultrasound procedures
in a non-medical setting. Yet it lists websites for retail "prenatal
portraits in the Bay Area," without providing any references
for further information about those risks. It implies that determining
the sex of a fetus is a major motivation for obtaining a "keepsake
ultrasound," but doesn't explicitly mention selecting sex.
That issue is raised in an accompanying
Associated Press article, "Choosing baby's gender at home:
Sex-selection kits sold on Internet blasted as snake oil."
The story, which was reprinted in dozens of US newspapers, quotes
bioethicist Arthur Caplan, who contrasts "legitimate"
sex selection methods like MicroSort and PGD to the do-it-yourself
kits. The reporter notes that these "legitimate" methods
"have raised ethical concerns about designer babies and
gender bias." See:
Marcy Darnovsky, "Sex
Selection Goes Mainstream," Alternet (September 25, 2003)
Marcy Darnovsky, "Revisiting
Sex Selection," GeneWatch (Jan-Feb 2004); available here. Original version at http://www.gene-watch.org/genewatch/articles)/17-1darnovsky.html