Campaign To End Sex Selection
With the advent of reproductive technologies that made it possible to detect the sex of a fetus developing in a woman's womb came a new method of discrimination against girls and women. Developed in the 1970s, prenatal diagnostic technologies like ultrasound scanning and amniocentesis proved profitable when marketed as a method of sex selection. Using prenatal diagnosis to detect sex, a person could choose not to have a child based on the sex of the fetus and opt for an abortion. Availability of these technologies and their promotion as tools for sex selection spread fast, primarily in South and East Asia. Currently, they are the most commonly practiced method of sex selection around the world.
Where its use is most widespread, prenatal diagnosis for sex selection reveals clear discrimination against the girl child, leading to severe gender imbalances in the population. For decades, women's rights groups in these regions and disability rights groups internationally led the struggle to expose the discriminatory use of these technologies. They sought, and in many cases succeeded, in getting laws passed to regulate their use. But, due to poor oversight and implementation, rampant misuse continues.
Adding to this climate, the powerful fertility industry in the U.S. has recently developed and begun promoting even newer technologies for sex selection. It is urgent that the unethical promotion and growth of an industry for sex selection is discouraged in the U.S. In particular the high social cost, abuse potential, experimental nature as well as limited efficacy of these methods need to be exposed. The practices of the profit-seeking fertility industry as a whole require oversight and regulation (currently seriously lacking in the U.S.), in order to ensure ethical use of all new reproductive technologies.
Sex Selection and Discrimination
Economic and social pressures to raise male children in the U.S. may be less than in other societies, but they are not completely absent. Furthermore, sex selection is by definition not gender neutral. While we would like to believe that our preference for one sex over another is not influenced by bias, almost all societies have internalized strong prejudices based on sex from which none of us are completely immune. A decision to have a girl over a boy, or the other way around, will be based on gender stereotypes. What if the child does not live up to our "boy" or "girl" expectations? Would the disappointed parents feel they had not gotten their "money's worth?" What does it mean to think of a child as a product with a price tag?
Resources & Action:
CWPE works in collaboration with Center for Genetics & Society, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), and Manavi, Inc. to lead the challenge to sex selection.
Sign this petition to support CWPE’s Genetic & Reproductive Technologies Feminist Statement.
CWPE’s Gender, Eugenics, and Biotechnology Task Force is also helping to organize a challenge to sex selection. Sign up to CWPE’s mailing list to get the latest information on opportunities for action!
For more information about sex selection, check out CWPE’s resources on the topic.
Sex Selection: New Technologies, New Forms of Gender Discrimination, by Rajani Bhatia, Rupsa Mallik, and Shamita Das Dasgupta, with contributions from Soniya Munshi and Marcy Darnovsky
Sex Selection Moves To Consumer Culture: Ads For `Family Balancing' in the New York Times, Marcy Darnovsky, Genetic Crossroads #33 (August 20, 2003)
Open Letter from Feminist and Civil Society Organizations to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (January 2002)
More information? Visit CWPE's Sex Selection Resources page.