Should parents be allowed to select the gender of their children for social reasons
Kim and Kanye are having another baby and it’s a boy. There are reports, which of course have been denied, that Kim only had male embryos implanted during IVF. For those who aren’t familiar with Kim and Kanye, they have a daughter and the birth of a son will ‘gender balance’ their family.
I don’t much care for Kim and Kanye but the issue of gender-selection for social reasons has long sat uneasily with me. It’s taken me some time to put my finger on why exactly I don’t like the concept. As a mum of three boys, people expect that I’d like a daughter. Some people even have the nerve to ask if our littlest lad was an attempt to ‘get a girl’. If I am totally honest, I’ve never had a strong yearning or desire for a daughter. I guess starting from that basis I find gender selection, for non-medical reasons, a difficult concept.
Best interest of the child
Finally the penny dropped. Way back at Uni, I studied family law. To talk like a lawyer, a fundamental principle in Australian law is that all decisions concerning children should be in their ‘best interests’. Social gender selection seems to be done at the decision of a potential parent, based on their own desires. Maybe parents want to ‘gender balance’ their families like Kim and Kanye, maybe the father wants a son to play football with, perhaps the mother wants a daughter to take to ballet. But surely those reasons are not enough to engineer the sex of your child. It bothers me for a number of reasons.
As a parent, we should give our children unconditional love. Isn’t that the true foundation of the parent/child relationship? To say we want a child but it must be a girl seems to make the love conditional on the child being a girl. I am sure that all parents love their children, but to think the child is less desired because of their sex is troublesome.
You want a girl to shop with? New flash, not all girls like shopping! Boys can shop too. The same can be said about ballet, or dress ups, or tea parties. You want a boy to play soccer with? Girls can play soccer or cricket. Some boys don’t like sports. See a theme here? Just because a child is a particular gender does not mean that they’ll conform to your ideas about how a person of that particular gender should behave. Let’s not forget, implanting a ‘pink’ egg won’t guarantee a girl baby who loves pink. There’s more to a child’s identity than their genitals.
There are countless couples who struggle with infertility. There are women who endure multiple miscarriages. Some women never get the opportunity to become mothers. Sometimes we need to be grateful and happy for the children we are given, boy or girl.
Money, money, money
Gender selection for social reasons is not currently permitted in Australia. Couples are therefore travelling to the USA and Thailand, among other counties, to acquire the baby they want. This travel and procedure comes at a huge cost. I get that if you have money, it can buy most things. But a child isn’t a possession. It seems to me to ‘buy’, or more politely ‘select’, the sex of your child reeks of a sense of entitlement.
Apparently people who have children all of the same sex can suffer from ‘gender disappointment’ or even ‘gender depression’. Rather than a tinge of sadness when their second or third child are all the same gender, they get depressed. This perplexes me and strangely reminds me of a Rolling Stones song – ‘You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need’. Maybe, if you end up with three sons, or three daughters, there’s a reason for that. Who knows?
Where’s the harm
From an ethical perspective, some might ask where the harm is in allowing a family to chose the gender of their child. This brings me back to my concern about whether gender selection has the best interest of the child at its core. It’s possible if you really want a girl, after two or three sons, that guaranteeing a daughter is in the best interest of that child, as it satisfies the parent’s wants. Perhaps it avoids gender disappointment in the parent. But isn’t that about the parent? I worry about the pressure placed on a gender selected child to conform to stereotypical male or female behaviour. Those expectations certainly can’t be in the best interests of the child.
Some would say if parents have a child of a sex they don’t want, the child may not receive as much nurture as the preferred gender child might have received. I’m not convinced that is a legitimate argument for social gender selection. If a couple can’t give equal love or nurture to a boy as a girl, or vice vera, frankly I am not sure they should be parents!
Meet your baby
When I read about a woman sobbing at her ultrasound upon hearing that her second and third children were boys and contemplating aborting the third son, I shuddered. I love my sons unconditionally and without reservation. Not because they are boys but because they are my children. If I had another child, I am sure i would feel the same depth of love, irrespective of its ‘bits’.
It’s a tricky subject. To be clear, I think there’s a huge difference between kinda hoping your third child is a boy after two girls versus subjecting yourself to invasive medical procedures and incurring huge cost to guarantee the third child is a boy.
How do you feel about social gender selection?