To Be Or Not To Be: Choosing Your Child By Gender

How could I not be a little horrified when I read this headline?

Couple aborts twin boys because they want a girl using IVF.

When it comes to the art of headline writing, I’d say that qualifies as a grabber. It caught my attention, provoked my ire, and brought me to this article that appeared on Politics Daily. And what the article describes, for me, is extremely disturbing.

I am all for each of us owning our own bodies. For reproductive decisions that are between us and our gods, us and our physicians, us and our chosen partners. But when I consider this story, that twin boys were aborted purely because they were boys, it strikes me as exactly the sort of ethical nightmare we face when presented with certain medical possibilities.

Furthermore, I am not for government intervention when it comes to these issues.

Except… and there’s always an “except,” which is, of course, part of the dilemma even in free societies. Freedom requires guidelines at the very least, and laws, as we well know.

This particular case is taking place in Australia, as the couple continues their bid to move forward with IVF, so they may have a girl. I latched on to this paragraph with some relief:

But the couple, who want a girl to replace the infant daughter they recently lost, is so far still barred by Australian law from pursuing their quest for a female baby. The state of Victoria, where the unnamed couple lives, does not allow sex selection using IVF unless it is done to avoid the risk of the baby’s inheriting a genetic abnormality or disease.

The story is certainly more poignant, knowing that the couple is already riding a river of grief at the loss of a child.

But as I continued reading, I was dismayed again, seeing that the case is going to the next level in the legal system. Strangely, I’ve never been so painfully aware of the rights of the unborn (if I may use those terms) as in this story. Perhaps because there is no apparent medical need, no situation of poverty or even single parenting. Embryo testing to screen for genetic defects is one thing; to “deselect” a baby (or two) of the unwanted sex, via abortion, feels like something else again.

I am fully aware that this is my value system speaking, and it contradicts my pro-choice belief that we each own our bodies. Is this anyone’s business but theirs? And would it surprise you to know that the US does not regulate this sort of sex selection? In fact, if the Australian couple in this article are unsuccessful in their quest, they plan to come to the US to proceed.

I admit – I’ve been so busy raising my own kids as a single parent that I’m not always as current on “the world” as I ought to be. Nonetheless, I was surprised, and I have mixed feelings. We all may secretly harbor preferences for children of a certain gender. If we have a boy, we may want the second to be a girl. If we have girls and love it, we may want a houseful. I have delighted in raising boys. I would have happily had more.

But I took – and would take – whatever I was given, grateful for a healthy child of either gender. In fact, I shocked my doctors when I was pregnant in my thirties, and refused amniocentesis both times. I had no particular risk factors (other than age), and for me, I knew that I would proceed no matter what. I also know that’s a highly personal decision, one I wouldn’t have anticipated 10 years earlier, and I wouldn’t impose it on anyone else.

But in this case, and cases like it, just because we can do something, does it mean we should?

Reading this article also recalled – for me – the transgender man who has now given birth three times, not to mention the stories that appear periodically documenting mothers giving birth in their 60s and 70s. On the former, I am bothered, but opt for a “live and let live” approach. On the latter, I am strongly against.

  • What do you think of this case?
  • What do you think of selecting the sex of your child?
  • Where do you stand on motherhood over a certain age?
  • Do you believe these decisions should be unregulated?

© D A Wolf



  1. says

    Of this case, I think it’s selfish. You cannot “replace” a lost child by having another of the same sex. You can have more children, but sex should not determine whether they’ll be loved.
    As to selecting the sex of your child – pray for the health of that child. Sex is really not that important, is it?
    Motherhood over a certain age? We need to keep in mind the age we’ll be when our kids are teenagers, or even toddlers. I know in my late 40s when I became a grandmother I did not have the energy, or patience, that I had when my children were little. We need to be concerned about being there to raise our children.
    Regulation? Although I believe we should have the right to abortion if that’s what is right in our minds for the situation? However, abortion because you’re not happy with the sex of a child? That seems so wrong to me. But should it be regulated? I don’t know. I have very mixed feelings there.

  2. says

    It’s easy to know here where my gut and heart lie – I’ll always reject amniocentesis and would never wish to choose the gender of my child (particularly with an actual pregnancy at stake). But it’s hard to know what my stance is on other people’s decisions regarding family planning, even when they feel wrong to me.

  3. says

    I’m a weird hybrid of tolerance and strong opinions. Despite my strong opinions I really work hard to withold them when something is none of my business. But this infuriates me. Carol said it well that gender should not be the determinant in whether a child is loved.

    While I believe that abortion is a miserable means of birth control I am pro-choice because I believe that a woman’s body is her own and that there are many medically legitimate reasons to terminate some pregnancies. Gender, however, isn’t one of them.

  4. says

    Except to save a mother’s life, I believe abortion is wrong. But I don’t believe I have a right to stop you, if you believe or act differently. Our son is adopted. When she got pregnant with him, his birth mother knew she was not in a position to raise him. She believed abortion wrong, so she found my wife and me, and gave us our son.

  5. says

    It feels wrong to think that someone would abort based on sex. Medical advances always seem to be pushing the envelope causing moral and ethical decisions. I, however, do not think that I could pass judgment on this, but merely state that it would not be right for me.

    As for the older women giving birth, I think there is something wrong with that because the reality is that they will not be able to care for the child until it reaches adulthood. I don’t know. These are hard questions – I think I can only speak to what would be right for me. And, I am damn tired at 40 with a six-year-old. There’s no way I’d ever have another baby voluntarily!

    • BigLittleWolf says

      @Cathy and @Carol – Re the older women giving birth, I imagine they’re picturing cuddling babies and even, possibly, chasing toddlers. It’s a whole other thing when you’re dealing with tweens and teens and you’re not a spring chicken! These mothers have no idea what they’re in for. And I agree, it seems horribly unfair to the children.

  6. says

    What scares me the most is they aborted two boys in favor of replacing their lost girl. Just coming from an awful loss myself, I can’t understand how one baby could be replaced while others could be…aborted.

    A tricky issue for sure. (I am becoming more libertarian in my beliefs. I don’t think laws (or politicians) should dictate right or wrong but I do think decisions like these should be made between a woman, her partner, and a qualified healthcare professional.)

  7. says

    I’ve always been pro choice, but having a miscarriage, even early as it was, made the loss clear to me. Clear and scary.

    Still, I believe the right to choose for yourself is important.

    And I don’t like this at all. You cannot replace a lost child. We were not built to choose the babies who come into our lives. Our job is to love them.

  8. says

    Well isn’t this a sticky subject. Pro-choice believes a woman’s body is her own and she has total autonomy to make decisions about it regarding birth/abortion. So who’s to say gender selection is wrong? If the unborn aren’t children until they are viable (or born, depending on your terminology), what difference does it make if the abortion is because she doesn’t want it or doesn’t want a girl/boy? The outcome is exactly the same. The only difference is the value system of the person making the choice. I don’t see where pro-choice can criticize this decision. Either a woman can do with her body whatever she wants, whenever she wants on the topic of abortion… or not. If not, perhaps there does need to be some sort of guidelines or regulations regarding the casual abortion based on ethical or moral grounds. But then…who’s morals do you use? BTW, I think the practice of gender selection is horrific. But I have pro-life tendencies anyway in case you couldn’t tell.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Sticky, yes. I think you touch on part of the problem for me, and others who have expressed their opinions here, Lisa. We believe that a woman’s body is her own. We don’t want anyone telling us what we must or must not do with our bodies.

      But I’m one of those pro-choice women who finds this appalling. On so many levels. I’m also one of those (fortunate) women who could literally feel pregnancy within a week. Life. Life I cherished as soon as I felt it. How do I reconcile that with being pro-choice? With enormous difficulty. Do I want government intervention? Some arbiter who makes decisions that won’t fit every case? I’ll offer a shaky no, because I don’t believe government belongs in our bedrooms or our doctors’ offices, and like you, I don’t want someone else making my moral decisions for me. But human beings push medical technologies into realms where they weren’t intended. And I have difficulty understanding, and accepting.

  9. says

    I have always been pro-choice, even though Catholic. My strict, follow the Church blindly friends call me a cafeteria Catholic – choosing what I want. This infuriates me on so many levels. First, as many have already said, you cannot “replace” a lost child. Second, if abortion was the option because of sex, will there be termination of more than one child – often the result with IVF – once female fetuses are conceived?

    I personally would have to think that the emotional and mental status of the parents would have to come into play when choosing IVF. I do not believe someone who is “replacing” or who is picking one sex over the other would be emotionally or mentally ready for conception, let alone for conception where multiples are highly likely.

    The science geek side of me says this is not what science is for. Science is for improving life quality and living conditions. By allowing this type of a choice, neither is being improved.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      You raise two excellent points, Nicki. The issue of terminating other fetuses of either sex once they have “a girl,” and the status of their capacity at this point. I wonder what will happen if / when they come to the US to proceed, or if we even hear about in the media?

  10. says

    Although this is a tricky issue, I have to shake my head at this mother’s choice. Because I have a husband who works with premature babies, I know of heartbreaking cases of mothers who are struggling to have just one baby, girl or boy. Having a healthy BABY is a gift, a privilege and something that shouldn’t be taken for granted. The fact that the gender didn’t meet this couples standards doesn’t make it acceptable to dispose of two potentially healthy baby boys.

  11. says

    While I’m adamantly pro-choice, my first thought is boys or girls, what kind of parents are these people going to be? One child can’t “replace” another, like you buy a new toaster. What a horrible burden to put on a child.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      I also wonder about the other three children they already have, and how they will feel when they know what their parents have done. And surely, now, they will. I hate being judgmental. We never really know what is going on inside another person’s world, but something seems very off here. And beyond sad, on so many levels.

  12. says

    Wow – what timing! The day you posted this on gender selection is the day we found out the sex of our baby! In fact I posted about this experience the next day. And when I saw this: “We all may secretly harbor preferences for children of a certain gender. If we have a boy, we may want the second to be a girl,” I laughed. That was me, except the opposite. Yes, I wanted the “set” since we’re only wanting two kids and it really would’ve been nice to experience being a mom to a boy, but you’re so right, a healthy baby is a healthy baby and we should just be so grateful for that. And I truly am.

  13. says

    I read this for a while now but have not been able to comment because I don’t know how. I am afraid that the anti-abortion group is going to take this story and run with it, waving it in front of the camera as a sure reason WHY abortion should be outlawed. On the other hand, of course I find this appalling. YES I am “JUDGING” them big time! In the back of my head I am already thinking two things: 1. You cannot mess with “destiny” (for a lack of a better word since I don’t want to use “god”) so much. 2. the poor little girl is going to have a very interesting outlook IF she knows she is born to “replace” somebody else. Guess what I am thinking also? Twilight Zone and the movie AI. I am hearing that Twilight Zone theme music right now! Yikes.

  14. says

    By the way, kind of unrelated and going off on a tangent: the result of China’s One Child Policy? Yes people went out of their ways (THAT is a gross euphemism right there) to have boys. Guess what? Nowadays there are 1.25 man to every woman. Hey, you cannot “carry on your family blood line” if your SON cannot find a woman to marry and to reproduce. DOH.

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