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USF alumna discusses ethics of sex selection

TAMPA, Fla. – On Oct. 22, 2014, the University of South Florida welcomed Inamaculada de Melo-Martin, Ph.D., to discuss the controversial topic of sex selection, also referred to as “designer babies.”

The 1997 USF psychology graduate discussed the Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), a technology with the ability to select against embryos that may carry genetic diseases, can prevent disability and avoid premature death. It also has the ability to separate the x and y chromosomes. If parents are not worried about genetic diseases, de Melo-Martin posed the question: would it be ethical for them to use PGD simply for gender preferences?

“The majority of people don’t agree with this technology because [the belief is that] it is inconsistent with good parenting,” de Melo-Martin said.

De Melo-Martin also mentioned a Texas study that showed parents who decided to use the technology felt uneasy because a part of them felt that they shouldn’t be choosing their child’s sex.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists was concerned that this technology would support sexist practices. European countries share the same concern. The 1997 European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine agreed that the technology was ethical when used for medical reasons, but not social reasons.

De Melo-Martin said there is no technology that can possibly determine whether PGD is being used for sexist reasons. The majority of sex selections in the U.S are used for girls. Girls have a 90 percent selection rate, where as boys have a 75 percent selection rate. However, when people were asked if they could choose the sex of their only child, most picked male.

“Gender technology, not sex technology,” de Melo-Martin said, shifting the lecture in a different direction. “[Parents] are interested in the different experiences people have when raising a boy or girl.”

Those who fight for the defense of sex selection technology argue that reproduction falls under procreative liberty. However de Melo-Martin said there is no reason to believe procreative liberty involves a right to have a particular child.

“I side with her argument for the defense of neutrality,” said Guido Guerra, a health sciences junior. “A lot of people don’t understand the difference between sex and gender.”


Filed under:Arts and Sciences Humanities Institute Events   
Author: Melissa Moreno