The Ethics of Embryonic Sex Selection

The New York Times has a typical article on sex selection. What is always odd in such stories is to see the hypocrisy of groups like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists which, as the Times notes, opposes sex selection,

Regardless of the method, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposes sex selection except in people who carry a genetic disease that primarily affects one sex. But allowing sex selection just because the parents want it, with no medical reason, may support “sexist practices,” the college said in an opinion paper published this month in its journal, Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The same people and organizations who will talk about “reproductive freedom” and a “woman’s right” when it comes to killing an embryo all of a sudden get all squishy when that “reproductive freedom” is used to bring about an outcome with which those people and groups are uncomfortable with.

The arguments against sex selection tend to rely on the very same arguments that are typically rejected when they are applied to abortion. For example, most of us think sex discrimination is wrong and so the ACOG cites sex selection as supporting “sexist practices.” Of course much the same argument is made against abortion by pro-lifers who argue that abortions contribute to a “culture of death.”

Such arguments by nominal defenders of abortion merely highlight the vacuous, empty nature of the idea of “choice.” Rather than being a serious argument, “choice” is simply a handy justification which is typically abandoned the second reproductive issues deviate from the ethics of abortion.


Girl or Boy? As Fertility Technology Advances, So Does an Ethical Debate. Denise Grady, The New York Times, February 6, 2007.

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