Is Regulation Needed?

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Other than human cloning and abortion, few medical issues raise more controversy in medical law and ethics circles than gender selection. In her book The Baby Business: How Money, Science, and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception (Harvard Business School Press, 2006), Debora L. Spar compares today’s fertility market with America’s Wild West in the 1800s —  without systemic regulation and consistency between states, and between clinics, and not enough transparency to those outside the “baby business.” As her book’s subtitle suggests, “money, science, and politics drive the commerce of conception.” Legal controls must be put in place.

Others argue the opposite, that it’s a medical issue between individuals or couples and their doctors and the state should stay out of the regulation business.

So does sex selection technology require regulation? Certainly for safety, and also for efficacy. Many fertility doctors (generally, reproductive endocrinologists) agree on these points. But some doctors, patients and regular citizens want more regulation than this. They want to make sure that we don’t start down the slippery slope manufacturing “designer babies” or creating nations dominated by one gender. They want to ensure that we are not creating nations with a serious imbalance of man and women gender, as is happening in some areas of Asian nations including China, Korea, Taiwan and India.

Marcy Darnovsky, of the Center for Genetics and Society notes that a “constellation of technological, economic, cultural, and ideological developments has revived the issue of sex selection, relatively dormant for more than a decade.” She covers the range of concerns noting that “sex selection could reinforce misogyny, sexism, and gender stereotypes; undermine the well-being of children by treating them as commodities and subjecting them to excessive parental expectations or disappointment; skew sex ratios in local populations; further the commercialization of reproduction; and open the door to a high-tech consumer eugenics.”

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