PM5108: On sex selection

sex selection refers to any practice to control the gender of offspring. Techniques of sex selection include:
  • pre-conception techniques: techniques such as sorting of sperm into female and male for us in in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) or artificial insemination.
  • pre-implantation techniques: sorting of IVF embryos into female and male post-conception but prior to implantation into the womb; those of the non-desired sex will be discarded, used for research, or implanated into another woman
  • post-implantation techniques: sex-selective abortion - in utero sex determination techniques (such as amniocentesis and karyotyping) are used to determine foetal sex; foetuses of the undesired sex are aborted
  • post-birth techniques: infanticide, abandonment, enslavement or giving up for adoption of children of the undesired sex

There are also various methods popularly proposed based on the timing of sexual intercourse (with respect to the mother's menstrual cycle) or the adoption of a certain diet by one or both parents. However, these methods are of questionable efficacy.

Females are most commonly the victims of sex selection, since in most traditional societies, sons are preferred over daughters. Sons are seen as source of economic, political and physical security; daughters are seen as less useful, and in some cases as a liability (e.g. need to pay dowry). However, in other societies, reasons for preferring children of a certain gender vary widely, and are often of a more varying personal and idiosyncratic nature. In contemporary Western countries, it appears that of those parents who would prefer a child of a particular gender, those who prefer daughters are roughly equal in number to those who prefer sons.

Some countries, in particular India and China, have major problems with gender imbalances - specifically an excess of males over females - due to the widespread practice of sex selection - predominantly through abortion and infanticide.

A number of jurisdictions have introduced laws to restrict sex selection. In Australia, sex selection in IVF is prohibited in general, although it is permitted in rare cases where there are strong medical reasons to do so (e.g. serious genetic diseases which only affect one gender). However, similar to the issue of abortion, arguments have arisen over whether psychological reasons for the parents to prefer a child of a particular gender should be considered medical.[1]

Maratreanism has no inherent objection to sex selection. By contrast, many Christians oppose it. Here is a comparison of their respective views:

Christian view Maratrean response
many forms of sex selection involve abortion (including the discarding of undesired embryos) or infanticide Maratreanism has no inherent objection to abortion, including on the grounds of sex selection; Maratreanism opposes infanticide, including as a method of sex selection (although it accepts euthansia with parental consent for severely disabled infants)
sex selection can lead to gender imbalances in society, which can interfere with God's plan for heterosexual monogamy, and produce social disharmony and inequities This is only the case when there is a uniform desire in society for children of one gender or another - in some societies that exists, but in others (including contemporary Western societies) it appears there is no universal preference, and thus sex selection is unlikely to cause any great change in gender ratios. In any case, gender imbalances can be responded to in a number of ways - encouragement of homosexuality or multi-partner relationships (neither of which are objectionable under Maratreanism), or encouragement of immigration of the lacking gender, or emigration of the excess one, to help restore the balance
sex selection implies that the unwanted gender is of less worth - but both genders are equal, being equally made in the image of God Although in some cases sex selection can derive from a belief that one gender is of less worth than another, it doesn't have to derive from such a belief. Rather than trying to prohibit it in all cases, we should restrict the prohibition to cases where such a prohibition actually exists. And if a few parents have this belief, and act on it, what is the great harm, even if there belief is wrong? If they really believe one gender is inferior, it would be better for them not to have children of that gender. If this is a common belief in a society, then it is a bigger issue; but even then, prohibiting sex selection is attacking a symptom not the cause.
sex selection implies parental love is conditional (conditioned on the child having the desired gender) rather than unconditional Parents are human beings. We shouldn't try to hold them up to some impossible standard of perfection. They may well still love a child even if it is of the undesired gender, but surely if they will be happier with a child of a certain gender, it is best to give them what they want where possible? As well as making them more happy, a happier parent will have a happier child.
children are a gift from God - to reject a child on the grounds of its gender is to show ingratitude towards the divine gift The Goddess Maratrea is a Mother fundamentally disposed to granting her children's wishes; even though at times she must deny (in one branch) a wish of one of her children to fulfill a wish of another - but even then, she creates another branch in which this wish is fulfilled. So, where we have the power to make reality better conform to our desires and dreams, she is not opposed to us so doing.
the choice of the gender of one's children belongs to God, not to man; an attempt to make such a choice is a human usurpation of divine authority Maratrea has willed that in the earlier days we be weak and lacking in power; but in later days she grants us ever greater power over reality - this power (to choose the sex of one's children) is just a sign of her ever-increasing generosity to us. Those who would prevent this gift from her are the ones who are showing ingratitude. From a Maratrean perspective, sex selection is not an usurpation of divine authority - rather, the rule of the usurpers and their justice falsely so-called is the true usurpation
  1. Jessica Craven, Couple get no say in baby's sex, Herald Sun, 9th April 2011; see also article in The Age
Comments