For the libertarians out there, does the government have any business regulating when parents are allowed to select the gender of their children? I'm not that familiar with the techniques, but let's set the morality of abortion aside and assume that gender selection doesn't -- by anyone's definition -- kill any babies of the undesired gender. Since I don't know how gender selection techniques work, it may in fact be the case that no fertilized eggs are harmed in the process. If I had to guess, I'd say the most likely way to select the gender of a baby is to separate X and Y sperms and then discard the undesired flavor. No harm done.
So, from that perspective, does society as a whole (and thus the government) have an interest in limiting gender selection? Does society have an interest in preserving a particular gender ratio (probably 50/50)? If so, should we empower the government to limit gender selection? The debate is already taking place in the UK:
Sex selection is allowed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) in order to avoid babies being born with sex links disorders such as haemophilia. But its use for family balancing was opposed by the fertility watchdog after a public consultation.
Now the Government has raised the issue again in its wide-ranging consultation on fertility legislation, which has not been updated for 15 years.
The consultation also asks if sex selection were more widely available, how many children of one gender should a couple already have before they are allowed to use screening techniques to try for a child of another gender.
Allowing gender selection for medical reasons seems to be a no-brainer to me, but what about for purely aesthetic considerations? I myself would like to have at least one child of each gender, so I can understand "family balancing" motivations. And if you allow family balancing (an arbitrary aesthetic) can you logically disallow parents with other reasons for preferring one gender over the other? If balancing is ok, why not economic concerns? Perhaps a poor family would prefer to have boys because they think boys are cheaper to raise. Perhaps another family wants girls to enter into those ridiculous child beauty pageants. Perhaps another family wants to alternate boy-girl-boy-girl, or whatever. The only way to allow some and not others is if society has some sort of gender-based interest, but does it? And if it does, do we want to officially recognize it?
In an earlier post I noted skewed gender ratios in Arab countries, and the CIA World Fack Book lists the following male:female ratios:
- 1.13:1 in Brunei
- 1.14:1 in Jordan
- 1.42:1 in Bahrain
- 1.51:1 in Oman
- 1.65:1 in the United Arab Emirates (!)
- 1.77:1 in Kuwait (!)
- 2.36:1 in Qatar (!!)
In those cultures male babies are valued more highly than female babies, who are often purposefully killed or allowed to die through neglect. The effect on their civilization of millions of adult men who have no potential to ever get married can only be imagined. As I wrote back then, no wonder they're so grumpy.