Gender Selection: The Processes And Ethical Debate

Gender selection, the science of predetermining a child’s sex, garners rising curiosity worldwide. Its prevalence swells with advancements in medical techniques and societal changes.

In this article, we will be exploring the ethics and procedures of gender selection, balancing scientific possibilities with moral compasses. Let’s unpack the ethical conundrum surrounding its practice and evaluate its multifaceted impact on society.

What is Gender Selection?

Picking a baby’s gender, known as gender selection, encompasses various techniques to sway the odds of having a boy or girl. These tactics span from simple natural strategies to high-tech medical processes, intending to ensure the newborn’s sex matches parental hopes.

The idea of choosing a child’s sex isn’t new; it’s an intricate practice tracing back to early societies. Yet, the birth of cutting-edge reproductive methods has brought about dependable ways to do this.

This practice has grown popular in recent years for various reasons: cultural values, the wish to balance family makeup, and scientific progress. Despite ongoing ethical debates surrounding its use, gender selection is continually reshaping with tech improvements.

Methods of Gender Selection

The realm of reproductive tech has been transformed by current gender selection practices, presenting would-be parents with multiple avenues for swaying their future child’s sex. These methods are diverse in their execution, success rates, and moral dilemmas.

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD)

PGD stands out as a top-tier gender selection method, using genetic screening of embryos formed via in vitro fertilization (IVF). Only embryos of the wanted gender are used for implantation. Despite its high precision, PGD stirs debate over the ethics of picking embryos and its potential for abuse.

Sperm Sorting Techniques

This method involves sorting sperm based on the X or Y chromosomes they carry, tipping the scales in favor of a specific gender at conception. Success rates can hover between 70-80%, depending on the technique. The moral debate here revolves around the possible skewing of gender ratios and the notion of meddling with nature’s course.

Natural Gender Selection Methods

Natural strategies, like planning the deed around ovulation, focus on leveraging the distinct lifespans of sperm with X and Y chromosomes. Their success is under scientific scrutiny, though they carry fewer ethical worries compared to their high-tech counterparts.

Procedures of Gender Selection

Gender selection medical procedures consist of specific steps to boost the chances of having a baby with the preferred gender. These techniques differ in their methods, effectiveness, and medical aspects.

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis Process

PGD’s process includes:

  • Stimulating the ovaries and retrieving eggs
  • Using in vitro fertilization (IVF) to form embryos
  • Taking embryo biopsies for genetic analysis
  • Pinpointing embryos of the sought-after sex
  • Placing the chosen embryos into the uterus

With accuracy in sex determination exceeding 99%, PGD is highly reliable. Yet, it’s a complex process with risks like multiple births and ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.

Process of Sperm Sorting Techniques

These techniques separate X or Y-chromosome-carrying sperm through methods such as:

  • MicroSort: Uses flow cytometry to separate sperm based on DNA differences
  • Ericsson Method: Relies on gradient centrifugation considering sperm density
  • Swim-up Method: Exploits the varied swimming speeds of X and Y sperm

While success rates can reach 70-80% with MicroSort, they drop for other methods. Risks include potential sperm harm and the requirement for IUI or IVF.

Safety and Medical Concerns

Every gender selection method comes with its set of risks, encompassing:

  • The possibility of multiple births
  • Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome
  • Sperm impairment
  • Emotional and psychological effects

The long-term health effects on kids and parents are under examination, and the ethics of tinkering with nature continue to stir discussion.

Recommended reading: What to Do After Medical Malpractice

Reasons for Gender Selection

Understanding why people choose a baby’s gender is important because it involves ethics. These reasons are personal, cultural, or health-related.

Family Balancing

Folks often pick a baby’s gender to balance their family, like having boys and girls equally or because they wish for a son or daughter. This raises ethical questions because it might seem like saying one gender is better than the other.

Cultural Preferences

In some places, culture affects this choice. Some might want boys to carry on the family name or for financial reasons, while girls might be favored for their roles in the family or community. This is ethically tricky because it might support unfair ideas about men and women.

Medical Reasons

Choosing a baby’s gender for health reasons is about avoiding diseases that only boys or girls get, giving parents a chance not to pass on serious health problems. Still, it’s ethically complicated because it could be misused or unfair to one gender.

Pros and Cons of Gender Selection

The choice of a baby’s gender has good and bad sides, and understanding these helps make smart decisions about this tricky issue.


  • Family balancing: Picking a baby’s gender can help make a family feel complete and happy.
  • Medical reasons: It’s a way to stop serious illnesses that affect only boys or girls from being passed down.


  • Ethical concerns: This choice can make it seem like one gender is more important, which isn’t fair and can make stereotypes stronger.
  • Social implications: If too many people pick one gender, it can cause societal problems later.

Psychological and Societal Implications:

  • Societal gender balance: Too many of one gender can upset things like job markets and marriage and change culture in significant ways.
  • Psychological effects: Kids born because of a certain gender might feel they must act a certain way or feel weird because they were picked based on gender.

Recommended reading: 8 Things To Know Before A Breast Reduction Surgery

Ethics of Gender Selection

The discussion around the ethics of choosing a baby’s gender is intricate, involving various opinions from individual values, societal standards, and different schools of thought. Grasping these numerous standpoints is crucial in journeying through the elaborate moral terrain of this topic.

Differing Ethical Viewpoints

Those in favor of gender selection highlight the importance of reproductive freedom and personal decision-making, insisting that parents ought to have the authority to shape their future children’s traits.

They also point out the positive aspects of choosing a baby’s gender for health purposes, like stopping the spread of diseases related to one’s sex.

Critics of choosing a baby’s gender voice worry about it leading to unfair treatment based on gender and its impact on society.

They believe that picking a child’s sex for reasons other than health could strengthen preconceived ideas about gender roles and contribute to gender unfairness.

Furthermore, they share apprehensions about meddling with nature, probing the moral consequences of altering how humans reproduce.

Religious and Philosophical Perspectives

Religious views on picking a baby’s gender differ greatly, with some religious teachings entirely against any sex selection, while others permit it under certain conditions. T

he philosophical views are also not uniform, with some advocating a practical method that considers the pros and cons, whereas others promote ethical rules centered on fundamental rights and responsibilities.

Potential Slippery Slope

The conversation frequently revolves around the possible descent into a world of designer babies, where parents might choose various attributes other than gender.

Anxiety emerges about the possibility of eugenics and a society where fixed traits measure children’s worth.

The Role of Medical Professionals

Healthcare practitioners are essential in dealing with the moral intricacies of selecting a baby’s gender. They are tasked with offering thorough guidance and transparent approval processes, ensuring future parents are aware of the ramifications of their decisions.

Legal Aspects of Gender Selection

Navigating the intricate laws around choosing a baby’s gender involves understanding the varied rules different countries have. It’s vital to comprehend these laws to grasp this action’s moral and community effects.

International Regulations

The legality of picking a baby’s gender differs around the world. Places like China and India don’t allow choosing a baby’s sex for non-health reasons because they worry about unequal numbers of boys and girls and unfairness.

In contrast, countries like the United States don’t have national rules against picking a baby’s gender, letting each state or medical place decide.

Ethical Considerations in Legal Policies

Creating laws about choosing a baby’s gender is tricky because it has to consider personal freedom regarding having kids and worries that affect everyone. Important ethical points include:

  • Stopping unfairness based on gender.
  • Defending the rights of the kids who aren’t born yet.
  • Making sure medical practices stay honorable.

Ethical Guidelines

When laws aren’t specific, moral rules become very important in controlling how choosing a baby’s gender is done. These rules, usually made by groups of medical professionals, advise when it’s okay to use this technology, how to make sure people understand what they’re choosing, and how doctors should help make decisions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What countries allow gender selection?

Different countries have different rules about gender selection. While places like the USA don't ban it, countries like China and India have laws against it to maintain gender balance. In Europe, it's often allowed only for health purposes.

How much is gender selection?

Gender selection costs differ based on the technique and clinic location. The priciest, preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), can cost $10,000-$20,000, while sperm sorting is cheaper, ranging from $3,000 to $7,000.

Can you choose gender with IUI?

IUI alone doesn't offer gender choice but paired with methods like MicroSort for sperm sorting, it can boost the chances of having a boy or girl. The success rate varies with the technique.

How does gender sway?

"Gender swaying" uses non-medical ways, like planning when to have a baby or changing your diet to try and pick your baby's gender. These need to be proven and work well. Medical ways like PGD and sperm sorting are more effective but involve more steps.

Can sperm be tested for gender?

Yes, there's a way called flow cytometry that sorts sperm by their X or Y chromosomes. Using this sorted sperm for procedures like artificial insemination or IVF can help have a baby of a specific gender.

How does gender selection IVF work?

With IVF, they use a method called PGD to test embryos' gender. After testing, they choose the embryos of the desired gender and implant them, boosting the chances of having a baby of that specific gender.

How much is IVF to pick gender?

Using IVF to pick a gender, which uses PGD, typically costs between $10,000 and $20,000. This price covers the IVF steps, testing of the embryos, and extra doctor visits.

Is gender selection legal in the US?

Yes, you can choose a baby's gender in the US. While there's no nationwide law against it, some states have rules. The ASRM suggests doing it mainly for health reasons, like avoiding genetic issues linked to gender.

Does insurance cover IVF for gender selection?

Coverage differs by insurance plan. While many insurance companies might cover IVF for health reasons, like preventing some genetic issues, they're less likely to cover it just for personal choice. Always check with your insurance for specifics.

Can you tell the gender of the blastocyst?

Yes, using a method called PGT-A, you can. By checking a few cells from the blastocyst, it identifies the gender (XX means girl and XY means boy) and can spot chromosomal issues.

Final Thoughts

Gender selection intertwines science, personal desires, and ethics. Technological advances offer choices but also raise societal and ethical concerns. As societal norms evolve, this debate remains ever-present. It’s vital to:

  • Balance reproductive rights and societal implications.
  • Consider risks like gender imbalances and child psychology.

A holistic approach, merging scientific knowledge with ethical insight, ensures responsible use, respecting individual choices and societal well-being.

Read next: Post Traumatic Hypersomnia: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments


  1. PubMed, Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, Pragya Rai, et al., 2018, Global sex selection techniques for family planning: a narrative review.
  2. Alysse Blight, The Shettles Method of Sex Selection”. Embryo Project Encyclopedia ( 2019-04-03 ) ISSN: 1940-5030
  3. PubMed Central, Journal of Education and Health Promotion, Tasnim Eghbal Eftekhaari, et al., 2015, Ethical considerations in sex selection.
  4. Oxford Academic, British Medical Bulletin, Volume 94, Issue 1, 2010, Non-medical sex selection: ethical issues.
  5. Journal of Medical Ethics (BMJ), B M Dickens, Can sex selection be ethically tolerated?
  6. PubMed Central, Facts, views & vision in ObGyn, G. de Wert and W. Dondorp, 2010, Preconception sex selection for non-medical and intermediate reasons: ethical reflections