Docs oppose gender selection for personal reasons

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - While the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) supports gender selection as a means of avoiding sex-linked genetic disorders, the group does not support its use for personal and family reasons, according to a statement released Wednesday.

In the statement, which is reported in the medical journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, ACOG's Committee on Ethics discuss the various ethical considerations that apply to different techniques for sex selection.

Prefertilization and postfertilization techniques for sex selection should not be used for personal and family reasons -- including family balancing -- out of concern that it may ultimately facilitate sexist practices, the ACOG committee opinion states.

Prefertilization sex selection involves "sperm sorting," which involves separation of the X chromosome from the Y chromosome sperm. The sorted sperm are then use for artificial insemination or for in vitro fertilization, fertilization of the egg outside of the womb, sometimes referred to as making a "test tube baby."

Postfertilization sex selection can be done using amniocentesis or ultrasound testing to determine the sex by genetics and visualization, respectively. This is then followed by elective abortion if the sex is not the one desired.

Infanticide is also a common practice in some cultures, in which infant girls are most often killed. Another alternative is giving the infant away for adoption.

The group acknowledges that it is possible for physicians to be duped into performing sex selection for personal reasons. For example, the gender of a fetus may become known when a procedure is done to rule-out a particular medical disorder. The mother could then use this knowledge for sex selection, unbeknownst to her doctor.

SOURCE: Obstetrics and Gynecology, February 2007.