Balanced Family Dynamics
Aside from the broad societal implications of gender selection, there are more immediate concerns. "We need to consider the psychological and emotional effects of this on families," says Linda Applegarth, EdD, director of psychological services at the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility, in New York City. She worries that the process could be damaging to kids. "Parents who take these extreme steps to ensure a certain gender most likely have inflated expectations for that child," she says. "What if their daughter hates Barbies? What if their son prefers dance to sports? These parents spent thousands of dollars to get their dream child. That's a tremendous amount of pressure to put on a child." And then there's concern about the impact on other children in the family. "It's like telling your older children, 'Mommy wanted you, but not as badly as I wanted your little brother or sister,'" points out Josephine Johnston, an ethics expert at the Hastings Center, a medical ethics think tank in Garrison, New York.
Still, such considerations don't deter people like Jeffrey Steinberg, MD, medical director of the privately run Fertility Institutes, who estimates that his company has helped more than 2,000 couples choose a baby's gender since his three clinics began offering PGD for that purpose. "Families want this," Dr. Steinberg says. "It's a matter of reproductive freedom, which we cherish in America." Jennifer Merrill Thompson, who ultimately wrote a book, Chasing the Gender Dream, about her quest for a daughter, agrees. "As the technology becomes more widely available and accepted, I think a lot of kids are going to be conceived this way," she says. And if her daughter someday asks about her birth? "I'll tell her she was conceived as her brothers were. With love."