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Ethical Issues In Choosing Childs Sex Sociology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 2796 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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People are attempting to determine the sex of their children from centuries and there are many superstitions, methods and old tales about what is the likelihood of having a girl or a boy fetus. Countless maneuvers during the coitus and the first weeks of pregnancy can increase the probability of conceiving the desired child’s sex. Kleegman (1954) reported in his study that insemination prior to or at ovulation resulted in 75% single male births. The sex ratio therefore has a cycle which needs to be extensively studied to determine the probability of the preferred child’s sex. With our constantly growing knowledge of biology and genetics, and effective methods to influence fertilization and sex ration before implantation, it is not far the moment when we will know beforehand the sex of our offspring. In this research paper, I will try to give reason to the possible ethical issues that arise from the likelihood parents to be able to choose the sex of their children.

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The scope of this research paper will try to determine what is the ethical pros and cons in dealing with child sex selection. Whether desirable practice for medical, cultural, social or demographic reasons prohibiting or allowing it by law will likely result in producing harm for the given nation. There are ethical reasons that I will present in this paper – namely the genetic predisposition of female or male fetus to be born with anomalies. These arguments are plausible. The unethical ones go as far as altering the sex ration, further devaluing women and creating social imbalance.

It will be further argued whether families having 2 or more children from the same sex will be permitted to keep the balance of their offspring by prenatal sex selection. It will be discussed whether couples have reproductive rights and how they can be infringed and violated. The consequences of forbidding or permitting child sex selection vary considerably from society to society and from individual to individual. Statistical data also varies between North America, Europe and Asian countries – India and China, in particular. Logically a comparison is impossible to be deduction about the child sex selection, because the social, cultural and economic factors that exist in India and Chine for a strong preference for son will be never prevalent and almost absent in Europe and North America.

There are four major arguments which oppose sex selection methods:

Such practices devaluate either one of the sexes;

It reinforces the social attitudes and discriminate against girl/boy preferences;

Women are struggling whether to choose abortion of the fetus if it is not from the desired sex or to give birth and kill it;

It creates demographic imbalance in the sex ration.

Since the introduction of the first sex selection clinic in Europe which happened around 1990, the interests, debates and even hostility surround these procedures. Often the hatred is generated and voiced by media and certain pressure groups, most likely religious organizations or professional bodies (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), 1993a). The public is struck by ethical and emotional concern and people have extremely polarized opinions – positive or negative. There are those who demand complete freedom to choose the sex of their children and those who express total disagreement and prohibition of prenatal sex selection which is not done in case of medical reasons. The main objections for sex selection come due to the demographic statistics in countries such as China, Korea and India, where the culture requires a sex preference due to the family policies restrictions.

Population Reports (1994) shows that in some of the Asian countries as well as in the Middle East, boys are highly valued for religious, cultural, economic and hereditary purposes. The widespread practice of abortion or infanticide in case of female fetus suggests that the possibility to select the sex of the child in advance will further reinforce sexual stereotypes and create additional financial hardship for those families who decide to raise a girl. Eventually, the chance to select the sex of the child in these countries will add to the disadvantage of women, leading to a nation-wide preference for male children and incorrigibly changing the natural human sex ration.

People should be offered reproductive choice. This is the affirmative point in favor of the prenatal sex selection. Morally, children who are genetically doomed to live a life of “non-existence” mental or physical are rejected by society and very often by their parents. Left behind in mental institutions and health care centers the question to ask is whether it is ethical to just ruin child’s life and destining it to merely vegetate? Or is it more ethical to make genetically indicated abortion? Or simply choose not to have a child from this sex? In many cases prenatal

diagnosis spares the parents the nightmare of having abnormal children and allows them to keep their reproductive rights of choosing what is best for them as parents and part of society.

Wertz and Fletcher (1993) conclude that in degree of controversy, the genetic abortion surpasses the ethical dilemma in any other methods. Gray (1991) noted that there are many claims that the diet that Dutch utilize may alter the sex ratio. Gray (1991) comments that if this statement is taken a priori it would be very astonishing, since evolution will be in favor of such methods of choosing the sex of the offspring. Gray (1991) conducts several meta-analyses which claim that sex during the highest fertile phase result in female births. Therefore, individuals can regulate in a way the sex of their future child, without resorting to medical assistance. Shushan and Schenker (1993) say that preimplantation allows parents to choose the sex of the embryo, because there are methods to determine this before the very process of preimplantation. Such methods constitute reliable techniques, thought immensely expensive.

Most people feel that they have the ethical right to apply such techniques in cases when the mother is a probable carrier of sex-linked diseases. On the other hand, many people feel that it is not ethical to use those methods to select the sex of the child, insofar, as they may not affect the risk of genetic disease (Wertz and Fletcher). A number of arguments, for and against allowing the sex selection are currently being debated. For the majority of people it seems that such techniques should be illegal. Gilroy and Steinbacher (1991) found our evidence which suggests that in many countries, most of them developing even if sex ratio is preliminary determined this would not significantly modify the ration and cause biological or social consequences. They discovered that there is 54:46 preference for boys to girls.

The genetic material of an embryo completed through in-vintro fertilization can not disclose the sex of a child. Eventually this results in implantation of the embryo of the desired sex. This again is of particular value, when there is a family history of sex-related diseases (Gray 1991). The Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers (2000) is the proper institutional organization in social work which addresses and deals with the ethical dilemmas presented by prenatal sex selection. The Code includes several values on which ethical principles are constructed to direct social workers. Below I will present some discussions that were held in relevance to prenatal sex selection and how they are connected to the ethical dilemmas presented. As a case study I will take China to illustrate my point.

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In the 1980s China’s government voted for family reduction size in order to control the demographic number of its citizens. The contradictory reality in China is such, that there is a perpetuation of sex stereotyping. Chinese cultural norms and values give more benefits to the male heir than to the female. Males are the perceived as continuing the family line. By birth, they inherit the property and are in succession of the bloodline.

Wiseman (2002) states that almost 117 male children were born compared to 100 female. The policy being to have only one child, result in an increase in male offspring than female. Wiseman (2002) commented further that Chinese men complain that women choose for their partner only men with privileged social status. Moreover, men with lower status were reportedly assigned to jobs involving higher risk – police or military, which might increase the probability of a loss of life (Wiseman). Wiseman (2002) predicts that the huge sex ratio differential will enforce man to exert power through bride trafficking, prostitution, and forced marriages. Recently, the issue of abortions related to the undesired sex of the child or infanticide gain public discussion.

“To refer to an imbalance between the sexes as a ‘dangerÒ‘ may seem to beg a question. The traditional pattern is of a roughly equal number of men and women in any generation. Is it so clear that to depart from this would be disastrous? The answer, once again, can only lie in an assessment of the actual or probable consequences of an imbalance in the sex ratio. Some recent evidence has begun to emerge in China but at present such assessments are more speculative than based on empirical evidence.” (Glover 20).”

Kusum (1993) notes a similar fear and trend about polyandry and elaborates that there exist probable prospect of crimes like rape, incest and kidnapping to be more frequent. She mentions also that the anxiety that “the reproductive burden on women will increase because the same burden of bringing forth progeny will then have to be shared by fewer women.” (161).

Kolata (2001) dwells on the implications of eugenics. This is a movement which emerged in the late 19th century and was oriented towards the choice to select the sex of the children. The circle of eugenics gave priority to the concept of superiority of people who shared certain characteristics. Ethical dilemma is that technology will allow parents to seek selection not only to the sex of the child, but to other features too – physical stamina, intelligence, physical appearance. “What’s the next step? As we learn more about genetics, do we reject kids who do not have superior intelligence or who don’t have the right color hair or eyes?” (Kolata, 2001, p. A-14)

Another ethical issue that might be discussed is the allocation of medical resources. It has been argued that the accessibility of sex-selection methods and apparatuses will force medical personnel to center their professional development and abilities to purposes that are not medically directed thereby possibly diverting medical resources from more important uses” (ASRM, 2001, p. 3) Medical profession required prolonged years of specialization and therefore, a limited number of physicians obtain the necessary qualifications. Allocating medical resources to a selective methods such as the preferred sex of the child, will not only raise ethical concerns, but also create undesirable inequality in the medical workforce. Proponents to the procedures indicate that physicians who choose to practice in such medical field is not an unusual situation. Consequently, there is no grounded basis which to single out and criticize the practice of prenatal sex selection. ASRM Ethics Committee (2001) conclude that the use of sex selection technology is expected to significantly drop and to consume a reduced amount of medical resources.

Prenatal sex selection raises numerous ethical dilemmas, including children’s well-being, the quality of the relationship between parents and child and the quality of relationship between parents. An example might be given with sex preferences in the cases when the couple has two children of the same sex. Selecting the sex of the third child (preference for a male) after having two female children) might lead to gender based preferences, which in can affect the relationship between parents and that between siblings.

Further conflicts in couple’s relationship may arise if they should seek medical aid in selecting their child’s sex or arguments might be to which sex their offspring should be. Other conflicts are linked with the financial situation of the parents who have to pay large amounts for sex-selection procedures. This can complicate additionally the circumstances and cause stress. Supposed failure in the procedure can aggravate the relationship because the child is not from the preferred sex. The ethical issues here concern the harmonious and balanced life of the couple and how endurable their family bond is. The right of couples and individuals to select, to have full access to available technology and knowledge, and to satisfy their yearnings for particular family formation poses intriguing questions about the future format of society. The ethical dilemmas and people’s rights compete with the right of medics to insist on the protection of equality, and discrimination since few people can afford to avail to the prenatal sex selection.

Prenatal sex selection of children is a new and emerging area rapidly developing for 2 decades now, and little empirical support exists. One of the main attractions and profits why people prefer sex selection is that it will aid the parents and couples keep a balance in their families. As mentioned earlier men and women who are predominantly at the end of their reproductive cycle of life, in their late 30s and already have 2 or more children from the same sex should not be denied the ultimate right to complete their family with the desired boy or girl. Morally, as a civilized society we ought them the right to maintain the societal and emotional stability of their family and relationship.

Pennings (1996) in his paper suggests that maintaining family balance is considered ethically acceptable approach of sex selection. In fact, he states that this reflects the genuine longing of many couples to have a balanced number of children from the both sexes. However, the issues that Pennings (1996) does not address concern mainly the fact that in countries such as China where the state supports only families with one child, preference is given to boys. A significant misbalance is witnessed in the last decade between male female ratio and in the future it will be more difficult to males to find a female partner. Regardless ethics and morality, the possible scenario would be that males in these countries will start to prefer homosexual relations. The resolution would be to favor girls as government incentives and stimuli and to receive state support. This inevitably would alter the social status of women and they will be highly values. This in a way will increase the demands for girls. Presumably, controlling the demographic graph in such a way is not more moral than the prenatal sex selection, though.

The logical approach to handle the questions related to sex selection in any country is first to decide if the medical practices will harm society’s balance in any way. If the answer is affirmative, then regulations need to be implemented to restrict the application of child selection only for those with medical and genetic reasons and to couples with reproductive problems. If the evidence indicates that no harmful effects would result, then regulations are not obligatory, though they may assist in raising the standard of the provided services.

The prenatal sex selection is a moral dilemma that each individual has to deal with personally, and to the extent to which his views are directed by the norms of the society he is part of. In societies where there is a strong preference for boys child sex is of such importance that shutters the ratio between sexes and creates demographic catastrophe. Further ethical questions should be raise whether it is better to give birth than to infanticide, or to allow the couple to choose the desired sex for their child. Eventually, this conclusion must be tempered by the opposite consequences of allowing sex selection – namely the potential to have nations with only males or females. Social reforms need to be introduced in such cultures rather than permit or prohibit child sex selection. More actions should be initiated in all societies to increase the value and respect for women and to enhance their status of subordinates.


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