May 9, 2024

American IVF clinics are happily offering sex selection

The United States is one of the few countries where IVF sex selection is legal – and it is a US$500 million market, according to a provocative feature in Slate

One of the leading practitioners, Dr Jeffrey Steinberg, of the Fertility Institutes in Los Angeles, says that its potential is unlimited. “The market is the size of the human race.”

Sex selection used to be controversial. Once upon a time the official position of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the peak body for IVF doctors, used to be condemnation. But doctors ignored its recommendations, with 75% of IVF clinics offering this service by 2018. Now it has quietly changed to neutrality.

Arguments against sex selection used to assume that most couples would choose boys and that the procedure would stigmatise girls. While this might be true in India and China, in the United States, it appears that couples prefer girls. Reliable information about sex outcomes is scarce, but the anecdotal evidence is that white parents choose girl babies 70% of the time. 

One of the women who spoke with Slate was Grace. She said: “When I think about having a child that’s a boy, it’s almost a repulsion, like, Oh my God, no.” The Slate journalist reports:

What’s so bad about boys? “Toxic masculinity,” said many women I spoke to, even those who were, sadly, already boy moms. For many, going through all the trouble to ensure a girl feels like a social good. … Among the moms I spoke to who already have boys, many want to give their sons sisters to make them into better men. They believe that girls can do anything—a conviction that often comes with the subtext that boys are incapable of doing their own laundry, calling their moms, expressing empathy, or even really being part of the family as they get older. “I don’t know a guy who has a strong relationship with his mother or his father,”Grace told me.

The perception is that boys are trouble—or at least are susceptible to a particular kind oftrouble. There’s been a heavily reported-on crisis of masculinity, with men lagging in almostevery metric that matters to success-obsessed Silicon Valley. Men are less likely to finish highschool, graduate college, and have children. One study found that 60 percent of young men are single, compared with 30 percent of young women, who are more likely to be in a queer relationship.

Part of the reason for sex selection – at least in California, where the women interviewed in the article live – is financial. For clinics, it increases the number of potential clients to include fertile couples who want a girl (or maybe a boy). For couples, it is easier because many employers provide IVF benefits. 

A psychologist – who chose the sex of her third child – told Slate that sex selection could be dangerous. The parents have ordered an ideal child – and they might feel cheated if their offspring doesn’t follow the script. “She has also seen seemingly open-minded parents who—after investing time, money, and pain into selecting their child’s sex—are devastated after their kid comes out as trans.”