In its quest to control the population, China limited the number of children in a family. The result was conscious decisions to abort female fetuses in favor of males. In India, between 4.2 and 12.1 million abortions were performed due to the fact the gender was female. In many Middle Eastern and Islamic fundamentalist nations, similar preferences are expressed. We in the industrialized, first world, West are shocked and scandalized by such decisions and preferences and dismiss them as resulting from backward, primitive, sexist societies. We take smug satisfaction we have evolved beyond such things.
USA Today is reporting on a new technology that can tell pregnant women the sex of the baby they are carrying as early as 7 weeks into the pregnancy. This technology has been available in Europe and is about to be made available in this country. Women would know months earlier than ever before the gender of their baby. The technology will be invaluable for women with high-risk pregnancies where the baby could have genetic anomalies or diseases. However, ethicists are concerned parents could use the early knowledge to abort a fetus because it is the wrong gender.
Every so often, the values or morals which lead humans to make certain decisions totally elude my understanding. As long as the baby is as healthy as possible, what difference does it make what the gender is? Is it a valid concern to think American parents would choose to end a pregnancy because the baby would be female? There have been concerns for years genetic testing could be used to produce designer babies. Parents will want blond hair and blue eyes. They will want to control genes and effect weight and height and intelligence. Some scientists think you could control for sexual orientation. Aldus Huxley's Brave New World has arrived. I have not seen evidence to support a significant number of designer babies brought forth in this country. It wouldn't be the first time my naïveté has blinded me. Of all the reasons to control a pregnancy, or end it, the gender of the baby seems beyond the pale.
I know sexism is alive and well in America. Christine Craft calls it the invisible "ism", and says America decided to attack racism in electing Obama president, while leaving sexism, in the figure of Hillary Clinton, to be fixed another day. There are still glass ceilings and women at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, (the most evil organization in America today) are few and far between. Should ethicists really be concerned American parents will end a pregnancy because they don't want a female baby?
The "choice" about what to do about any pregnancy must be left up to the woman. I never cease to be amazed by the regressive rhetoric of government being too big, too intrusive, too powerful and yet they are quite willing to have the government tell a woman what she can do with her body and the kind of family she will create. The same principal that allows the government to "prevent" someone from having an abortion can also "require" someone to have an abortion. The problem with choice is that with freedom comes license and it means people can make choices some of us feel to be unethical or even immoral.
It saddens, worries and angers me to think someone would think so little of female life...value it so little...feel loss if their child will be a girl and decide based on gender alone to end it. So, I ask you. Do you think ethicists have reason to be concerned? Are we no different in our sexism than India and China? How valuable or respected is the female gender in this country? Will prospective American parents use this technology to produce fewer females? Would anyone end a pregnancy based on the knowledge the fetus was male?
There will be those who feel the pendulum has already swung away from males and now females are in the catbird seat in this country. They will cite statistics showing the majority of college graduates are female. Law school and medical school classes are also majority female. They will look at rates of high school graduation and other indicators to show women are no longer a downtrodden minority, and males are the ones suffering from the competition. Even with this evidence, or because of it, is it time to produce fewer females and more males? Could you ever see you and your partner deciding to end a pregnancy because you didn't prefer the gender of the baby?
I am not an innocent bystander in this debate. I have a dog in this hunt. I have two daughters and two sons. I love them all beyond reason. My daughters are sharp and funny and intelligent. They are witty, compassionate and full of life. My sons are warm and open and bright. They are empathetic, loving and spontaneous. I cannot imagine life without them. (I wish I had been a more responsible and loving parent in choices I made) We were excited and thrilled by the news of each pregnancy. Doesn't everyone feel the same way? If not, why not?
I will not bemoan this new technology. I choose to believe most Americans will use it the way it was intended. We have not reached that level of hubris yet which would lead us to believe we can "design" the perfect family. Choice means allowing shallow or venal decisions to be made, but the same freedom gives opportunities to rise above petty needs or prejudices to something better. Do you agree?