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Picking and choosing gender raises ethical questions

The newest fad is a kit that supposedly lets parents chose the sex of their yet-to-be-born baby. Internet sellers of sex-selection kits guarantee customers their kits can provide worry-free gender selection in the privacy of your own home. The Associated Press explained some experts are calling these kits “snake oils.” But do these kits — if they even work — cross a line that shouldn’t be crossed? Does it take us too close to A Brave New World?

GenSelect is one of the companies offering such kits for $199 a piece plus shipping and handling. They claim that, if properly used, their kits are 96 percent effective. Kits provide customers with a thermometer to help predict ovulation, special douches and “gender specific” herbal and mineral pills.

South Carolina urologist Dr. Scott Sweazy, who helped create the system, told AP that since the Web site began three years ago there have been thousands of kits sold worldwide, and in the past year those numbers have tripled. He did discuss how not everyone who used this kit had the intended outcome.

“We have some people who didn’t get the gender that they chose, but virtually every one of them didn’t do it right,” explained Sweazy. He was unable to provide information on exactly how many babies were born as the desired or undesired sex, and a spokesperson was unable to provide sales figures since that is confidential information, AP reported.

The method gained attention in the United States when fertility clinics began offering gender selection to ensure a specific gender in order to prevent hereditary diseases that only occur in one gender to be passed on. However, even these procedures raised ethical concerns about gender bias and designer babies.

Many doctors remain skeptical about these home usage kits. They believe luck explains most of the success stories you read about. Even with doctors openly stating their opinions, there still is an audience for these products that wants to decide the gender of its babies.

But the question remains: Should we be able to pick and chose traits of its offspring? The debate if and how such lines should be crossed remains a heated one and probably will only be able to be evaluated in retrospect. By then, naturally, it would be too late.