Friday, 15 December 2006

If I want a girl rather than a boy, is this wrong?

Today I have an article in the Times, which you can read on their pages by following this link:,,6-2505381,00.html

However, if you don't want to move on (!), then I've republished the text here.
Before you add comments, please note that I have kept my arguments specifically to the UK - so there's no point warning me about potential problems in India or China. I have also proposed that sex selection should only be allowed after the first child - which would remove the issue of certain cultures ending up only with boys. And finally, if you do read on, you will see that I honestly don't think most people will do it - it's far too intrusive. I wouldn't have - but I don't have a problem with people who really want to....

Could someone please explain why parents shouldn’t be able to choose the sex of their children? The imminent shake-up of our fertility laws — as set out in yesterday’s White Paper — is set to impose a total ban on choosing the sex of a baby for non-medical reasons. But I’m still waiting for a good reason why not.
The main argument against appears to be the “what next?” scenario. It goes something like this: if the Government allows parents to choose whether to have a boy or girl, this will be just the start and soon everyone will demand a tall, blond, blue-eyed Aryan-looking “designer baby”. What rubbish — particularly if the people in question are small, dark and, like most parents, keen on seeing some kind of family resemblance in their offspring.

Some people’s neuroses are not a good enough reason to prevent parental choice. Neither are claims that the existing delicate gender balance will be skewed, particularly towards boys — although another way around this would be to offer sex selection only from the second child onwards.

However, recent research has suggested that British people favour an equal number of boys and girls (the researchers at the University of Giessen interpreted this as a social preference for a “balanced family”). In fact, the numbers saying they wanted more girls than boys or vice versa were almost identical, suggesting an almost negligible effect on boy-girl ratios. In any case, offering people the choice of a son or daughter doesn’t mean that everyone will take it. Indeed, most won’t even consider it, as it means undergoing intrusive assisted fertility treatment. To do that, you would need much more than a simple whim.

Alan and Louise Masterton’s young daughter, Nicole, died in a fire in 1999. As the parents of four boys, they were desperate, they say, not to “replace” her, but once again to have a female dimension in their family. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) wouldn’t let them try sex selection here, so they tried — albeit without success — in Italy. However, they still believe that they were right, that people should be able to balance their families, and that all it does is bring much-wanted children into the world (as opposed to the thousands born “naturally”, but unwanted every year).

I know of numerous families with two or three sons or daughters who would like to have another child, but only if they know it will be of the other sex. I can’t say I have a problem with that. We’re facing a demographic disaster in this country and need all the children we can produce. Why shouldn’t some parents receive a little extra help?