Page last updated at 12:25 GMT, Wednesday, 26 May 2010 13:25 UK

Scrubbing Up: Your Comments

In this week's Scrubbing Up, bioethicist Stephen Wilkinson argues that people should be allowed to make a choice on the sex of their baby.

Here are some of the comments you have been sending in response to his article.


We lost our son at just 18 days old to a Group B Streptococcus infection. We have since had a beautiful little girl who is now six years old. We would love to expand our family but would dearly love the opportunity to choose to have a little boy.
John Knight, Oldham

Absolutely no to allowing the gender selection of babies. Having babies is a gift, not a right, let alone an investment project that parents or others can deem successful or not.
Rob, Cambridge

This is a tricky one. I feel that at least the first child should be pot luck. Many couples have several same sex children before giving up and they should have the chance to complete their families with a child of the opposite sex. We do run the risk though of having identical families - one boy, one girl - and where is the fun in that?
Liz Smith, Melbourne, Derbyshire

When talking about the ramifications of gender control policy with China, and leaving aside the moral issues of deliberately creating "family balance", Wilkinson's point that "all of these arguments can be countered" leaves out something very simple. Whilst it is true that the arguments can be countered logically, it is better to not have those arguments at all. Having a policy that allows gender choice will enable opponents to shout "hypocrisy" when we attempt to deny other countries the very same thing. It does not matter what the logical arguments will be in face of such an undermining accusation.
Alan, London

As mother to one of each I count myself blessed. But if I'd been given a choice, for my second I would have chosen a girl, a thought that fills me with dismay now I know my lovely little boy. However, I really empathise with those mothers desperate for a daughter and think it would be a kinder world if they were able to choose to balance their families. I would not deny anyone the joy of a child of their own sex, it's very special.
Sam, Bristol

You can choose the child's sex but you can't choose their gender. Imagine if a couple had paid for procedures to ensure the certain sex of a child, and then the child feels transgendered. They want to be the opposite of what the parents paid for. It would be a greater stigma, harder for the parents to come to terms with and perhaps they would even refuse to allow the child transition. Therefore I think this scenario would make it even tougher for transgendered people.
Liam, London

I suppose it depends if you happen to think gender is important or not. For me, people are individuals and gender is no more important than hair colour or handedness. It's just part of what makes up that individual, no more. So when a baby was on the way, I didn't care if it would be male or female, it was Chris from the start, with -topher or -tine to be added in due course! However, I've seen how vitally important gender is to others, and cannot see any valid reason to stop them if they wish to select a child's gender, as long as they fund it for themselves.
Megan, Cheshire

I recently heard a talk by someone working on the Chinese border, who reports that women there are regularly abducted and trafficked into China to be wives for Chinese men who cannot find a partner there due to the gender imbalance. The West does not have the same social pressures for sex selection, but God forbid that we contribute to the number of people - who could be our own children - who cannot find partners because of our choice to select sex, and in doing so become supporters of people trafficking.
B Adams, Somerset

My opinion is that we choose when we have a baby, so why not what sex? We choose to use contraception and plan the timing of the child, so why shouldn't we be allowed to choose whether we have a boy or girl? Not everyone will want to choose and many will still want the element of surprise. I don't see why, providing it is done properly, people can't make an informed decision. There could be any number of reasons for the decision. Medicine and technology have evolved, why can't we? I think it would save people keeping on trying for a particular sex and ending up having four or five of the other, which has happened and continues to happen fairly often.
Lisa, Reading

Children should not be regarded as gifts or a parent's commodities but as human beings in their own right. If a parent can choose the sex, and perhaps hair colour, eye colour and personality traits, presuming the technology evolves as such, aren't we giving parents too much power to dictate the course of another person's life? A parent's role is as a loving guardian who allows the child to choose for themselves. If we allow parents to choose their children's traits, won't they see themselves more as owners than fellow human beings?
Andy, Southampton, Hampshire

Parents should most definitely be able to choose the sex of their baby. Its very distressing for a family to crave a boy or girl and to be disappointed time and time again. Sex selection regulated under tight controls, which I am sure it would be, is not sexist, it is merely a way of balancing one's family. Currently parents wanting to do this have to travel abroad and pay thousands. Why is it that in the UK we have to travel to foreign countries at very stressful and emotionally upsetting times in our lives, to receive a service that other countries readily provide to its citizens?
Steph, Leeds

One consideration for people is the method of being able to choose. The eggs are fertilised, one is chosen, and the rest discarded. There are some of us who believe that life begins at conception. This method raises the same questions as elective abortion. Now, I'm not interested in judging what other people think or do. They may feel differently to me and they have that right. But for me personally this would be an issue.
Luke, Bromley, London

I do not believe that prospective parents should be able to choose any characteristic of their unborn child, either before or after conception. They are bringing a new human life into the world, not choosing a sofa. If they are "distressed" at not being able to choose the gender of their child, then they clearly don't have enough to worry about, and I am not sure they would be up to the challenges of parenthood anyway.
Jane Vernon, London

Before I had my boy, I wanted a boy. Now after having a poorly boy, I just want a healthy second child. I think you re-evaluate the triviality of this type of debate when you have sat at the bedside of your newborn, hooked up to machines, fighting for his life. I do think it should be legal though, because only first time parents would be interested and a small number of all boy or all girl families. Plus the income earned could be used to help babies like mine get well in better-equipped wards with better research into genetic disorders.
Ann, London

I am of Indian origin and a mother of two children, a girl and a boy. People tell me all the time how lucky I am to have one of each. I would have been perfectly happy with any combination. To me, their health and personality is far more important than their sex. I was born and brought up in the UK with quite liberal parents but deep down I know my parents always preferred my brother, especially my mum. I also know that if I had not had a son my in-laws would have been a little disappointed and that's despite the fact that my husband always wanted a girl as his first born. The fact is whilst over all segments of society there may be no bias towards one sex, in Western countries there will be a huge bias in many communities. If we allow sex selection, over the next couple of generations you will see a significant reduction in female Indians, Nigerians, Ghanaians , Arab, Chinese and other ethnic minorities born in the West. Maybe that will be counterbalanced by the number of white females but does that really make it acceptable for other ethnic minorities to mostly give birth to boys? Also what's stopping those still living in India, China and elsewhere travelling to the West to select the sex of their babies? The wealth generation in those countries will enable millions to travel if they wish to do so.

"Right to choose" is fine as long individual rights don't damage society as a whole. Having the gender ratio in society way out of balance would be bad for all of us in the future. So how do you balance the "rights" here? Well, there should be a register. Everyone who wants a baby of one sex would have to be paired with someone who wants a baby of the opposite sex. Neither would be allowed to proceed until they were "paired up" in the register - this would all be done anonymously. This way, individuals get the "right to choose" and the greater good of society is protected too.
Roger Wright, London

But what happens if the process goes wrong? Say a couple opted for a boy and end up with a girl instead? The process cannot be infallible surely? And who takes the blame then - are the parents forced to look after a child of the "wrong" sex - and how will the child come to terms with this? Or will the parents give the child up for adoption by someone else and try again? There are a myriad of ethical issues which will emerge from this. Just because we can, doesn't mean we should.
Nicky, Bristol

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