Recently Dr. Edgar Dahl, spokesman for the German Society for Reproductive Medicine wrote about the 10 most common objections to sex selection and why he feels they are far from conclusive. His article, published in Reproductive BioMedicine Online, Vol. 14, Suppl. 1 2007 is in response to the recommendation that the British Parliament ought to outlaw sex selection except for the most serious medical reasons. The UK Department of Health concluded that social sex selection should be outlawed while sex selection for serious genetically sex linked diseases should be permitted.

Dahl lists these 10 reasons against sex selection which he refutes along the way:

  1. Sex selection is ‘playing God’ and since western democracies are built on the separation of church and state, if sex selection is against ones religious belief they can refrain from it.
  2. Sex selection is ‘playing mother earth’ and therefore it is ‘unnatural’ however on the basis that something is natural or unnatural doesn’t make it moral or immoral. Dahl gives the example of heart transplants being ‘unnatural’ but not immoral.
  3. Sex selection is using medical procedures for non medical purposes but we’ve crossed that boundary ages ago with plastic surgery being used for cosmetic purposes.
  4. Sex selection wrongly allocates limited medical resources but since western societies are run on private economies based on free and open markets, resource allocation is not an issue.
  5. Sex selection distorts the natural sex ratio leading to imbalances as seen in India and China. Dahl maintains that since western societies do not have marked preference for one sex over another we will not be at risk for imbalances in sex ratios.
  6. Sex selection distorts the natural birth order leading to a society of first-born ‘son and heir’.
  7. And Sex selection creates a society of ‘little sisters’ since girls will be desired after the first born son. Dahl combines his argument against reasons 6 and 7 maintaining that “it is highly unlikely that hundreds of thousands of couples would employ sex selection technology for their first child to be a boy” and second born children do not feel second best so there will be no harm to our sons and daughters by ordering their birth.
  8. Sex selection is sexist but Dahl states that parents do not view one sex as more valuable than another but use sex selection out of a desire to have children from each sex.
  9. Sex selection negatively impacts the welfare of the child by imposing gender specific behavior on that child. Dahl insists, couples who use sex selection want a girl, not Angelina Jolie or they want a boy, not Brad Pitt.
  10. Sex selection leads down the slippery slope of designer babies. But since this is not an argument against sex selection per se, but of the consequences of sex selection, Dahl feels optimistic we can manage these desires and “draw a legal line permitting some forms of selection and prohibiting others.”

I found many faults with Dahl’s perspective on sex selection. Besides the fact that his arguments distinctly ignore the welfare of the child, I was amazed in his confidence in our ability to control and legislate the desires of parents to keep selecting more and different traits in our children. The fact that he suggests we could draw legal lines here but not on social sex selection is rather naïve! May I suggest one reason against sex selection. It is an affront to the dignity of the child, to be viewed as something which is made, manufactured or willed by others. A child created in the image of the parents shows that we have lost our understanding that we are begotten and not made.

Author Profile

Jennifer Lahl, CBC Founder
Jennifer Lahl, CBC Founder
Jennifer Lahl, MA, BSN, RN, is founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. Lahl couples her 25 years of experience as a pediatric critical care nurse, a hospital administrator, and a senior-level nursing manager with a deep passion to speak for those who have no voice. Lahl’s writings have appeared in various publications including Cambridge University Press, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the American Journal of Bioethics. As a field expert, she is routinely interviewed on radio and television including ABC, CBS, PBS, and NPR. She is also called upon to speak alongside lawmakers and members of the scientific community, even being invited to speak to members of the European Parliament in Brussels to address issues of egg trafficking; she has three times addressed the United Nations during the Commission on the Status of Women on egg and womb trafficking.