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14 February 2006
Most Say Leave Gender To Chance

A new nationwide survey has found that the majority of people would not choose the sex of their child if given the option. The study, in the journal Fertility and Sterility, is believed to be the first to examine the demand for sex selection among the U.S. general population. The findings indicated that only 8 percent of people would use pre-implantation sex selection for non-medical reasons.

Sex selection using sperm-separation technology is available in the United States, but only as part of a clinical trial. The technique is controversial, but experts expect the technology to become more readily available to consumers at the completion of the trial. Sperm separation requires couples to provide a sperm sample for separation and then undergo an average of three to five cycles of insemination at a clinic, at a cost of around $2,500 per attempt.

The increased availability of gender-selection technology poses moral, legal and social issues, say the researchers who conducted the survey. There are fears that sex selection may disrupt the natural sex ratio, and hasten a trend toward designer babies. "So far, all of the ethical discussions about sex selection have focused on 'what if' scenarios without any legitimate data," said Dr. Tarun Jain, an infertility expert from the University of Illinois at Chicago and senior author of the report. "This study should provide a legitimate framework to better lead the discussion about the realistic implications of sex selection technology."

Interestingly, only 12 percent of people would use sex selection technology if it were available in any doctor's office, if it required only a single cycle of intrauterine insemination, and if it were covered by health insurance. And more tellingly, even if it were possible to choose the sex of a child simply by taking a "blue pill" for a boy or a "pink pill" for a girl, only 18 percent of respondents indicated they would do so. The rest were opposed or undecided.

"Perhaps this speaks to the fact that people still want to leave things up to chance and not rely on science for everything," mused Jain. "This study should ease the fears of some of people who believe that sex selection technology will become widespread when it is readily available in the United States. There is no evidence that the technology will have a significant impact on the natural sex selection ratio."

Source: University of Illinois at Chicago

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