Or society has become a society of choice. We can choose the color and design of
our houses and cars. We choose a myriad of options when it comes to buying a new
computer, cell phone, or even a t-shirt. Our lives are run by the motto made popular by
burger King. “Have it your way.” It no longer sounds far-fetched to shop around for
anything at all. Not even for a new baby.
Kathleen Fackelmann’s essay “It’s A Girl!” explores a new technology that may
allow parents to choose, with relative accuracy, the gender of their children. She outlines
a method that allows scientists to sort out a sperm sample into male and female
chromosomes, but in the process has inflamed the emerging debate on genetic
engineering. The biggest question raised in this essay is whether or not the new
technology will need to be regulated. I think it is foolish to allow this emerging
technology to grow unchecked and that without regulation, science will have over-
stepped its bounds.
The new method described by Fackelmann is fairly simple on the whole.
Researchers have found that the X and Y chromosomes reflect laser light in different
intensities. The female (X) chromosomes tended to appear brighter than the male (Y)
chromosomes. After being exposed to laser light, the chromosomes are divided into two
different tubes, and the desired chromosomes are placed into the now-expectant parent.
At first glance, this sounds like a great idea. Parents could now choose between
having a girl and having a boy with no strings attached. Alta Charo and Arthur Caplan,
who were quoted in Fackelmann’s essay, claim that the new method is essentially risk-
free and should not require regulation.
I believe as soon as people read this claim by Charo and Caplan, alarms should be
going off in their heads. No regulation? Doesn’t this claim discount the debate that has
been raging for years on genetics? We must ask ourselves what would happen if this
technology was allowed to proceed without government regulation.
The problem with this technology is not necessarily the choice offered. The
problem is that allowing a technology like this sets a precedent for other breakthroughs
that will inevitably follow. In other words, what is there to keep people from wanting to
not only choose the gender of their unborn child, but also their height, weight, eye color
and facial features?
The idea that we can choose for ourselves something that has always been left up
to God (or chance, for that matter) leads us down a road that we should not follow.
If parents can choose various traits and attributes about their children, then ideas
will come out about what makes an “ideal” child. Everyone will want this perfect little
boy or little girl. This will lead to a mentality not unlike the “super race” proposed by
Hitler. If a form is made of the ideal child, what room will there be in society for a child
who does not measure up to this standard? This might sound a bit far-fetched now, but if
we look at the leaps and bounds technology has taken over the last several years, it does
not sound impossible.
Science has never before offered us the choices that this sperm sorting and related
technologies now are able to offer. With this new technology comes a new responsibility
to use it properly. Without regulation, we leave the door wide open for problems to
I am not saying that this new technology is all together bad. As Fackelmann
points out, this technology could be used in several good ways, such as to limit the size of
families who are trying desperately to have at least one baby girl, or to avoid certain
illnesses that affect a certain gender. If the technology is used for these purposes, than it
may be beneficial. But without regulation it is very possible that this technology will
cause more problems than it will solve.