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Children should not be made to fit parents’ standards

The movie My Sister’s Keeper has re-introduced the concept of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to the public’s attention. In the film, the parents of a child diagnosed with leukemia conceive another child through in vitro fertilization (IVF). The second child was born to provide healthy blood and bone marrow for the sick child.

While this procedure should be used in such cases, or to prevent a child from being born with a genetic disease, it should not be used to choose frivolous things like the sex of a baby.

In 1989, the first child conceived from this process was born. Since then, more than 15,000 PGD procedures have been reported, with different parents having reasons for going through with the procedure.

PGD works in conjunction with IVF. Embryos are created outside the womb, then tested for certain genetic diseases. PGD procedures can also determine the sex of a child. The results are usually available within 24 hours. Then, a decision is made about the embryo.

If the embryo is disease-free, it is implanted in the woman’s uterus and the pregnancy continues as normal. In cases where a disease is found in the embryo, it does not get implanted and is thrown out.

The purpose of this procedure was originally to eliminate the risk of bearing a child with certain diseases. Families with high risks of genetic diseases can choose this almost
$20,000 procedure to reduce chances of their child being born with an illness.

Couples are beginning to use this procedure for other purposes. PGD also allows couples to choose the sex of their baby.

Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, a fertility doctor specializing in PGD, said to 60 Minutes that when the procedure was introduced in the ’90s, it was performed simply to eliminate diseases in the baby. Now, parents with no history of genetic disease are undergoing the procedure. More than 70 percent of the procedures performed in the U.S. are done simply to choose the sex of the child, he said.

Parents should not be able to choose the sex of their baby because it goes against nature. There are 1.01 males for every female in the world, according to the CIA World Factbook, but this could change if people start using this procedure to choose the sex of their child. A woman can choose to have a baby when she is ready, but its sex should not be under her control.

The long-term risks of this procedure could be devastating. If more couples chose to have boys over girls, there would be too many males in the world, which would result in a gender imbalance.

In countries such as China, the preferred sex is male. According to the CIA World Factbook, there are 1.06 males for every female in China – some regions have a 1.3 male-to-female ratio.

If people using PGD chose to have more boys, the world would see a spike in the male population. A global shortage of women could lead to a rise in prostitution, sexual violence against women and forced marriages.

Choosing the sex of a baby is just the beginning of engineering the perfect child. Soon couples might decide to choose the hair color, eye color or other characteristics of
their child.

What happens if, later on, scientists discover a gene for homosexuality? Should people be allowed to extract that gene from the embryo and make their child straight?

The issue of abortion should also be considered when using PGD. The testing usually calls for more than dozen embryos, while only one or two are used. The rest are thrown out. Therefore, human lives are created and then destroyed because they are not of the preferred sex. The conception and abortion, in this case, are both deliberate.

Though I believe abortion is a woman’s choice, embryos should not be deliberately created and destroyed. An abortion is a process that should be used only for unplanned pregnancies, not because someone does not like the sex of their unborn baby.

Parents should love their children no matter what. Children are not consumer goods, so their sex, hair color or sexual orientation should not be left up to the preferences of the parents.

Xhenis Berberi is a senior majoring in political science and economics.