Family Matters

Customized Kids: Parents Abort Twin Boys in Quest for Daughter

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Of course, every parent-in-waiting hopes for a healthy baby, but most — whether they admit it or not — have a preference for one sex over the other. But to what extremes would you go to make it happen?

A couple in Australia — already parents of three sons —have announced they have aborted twin boys in their quest to replace their baby daughter, who died soon after birth. Although sex selection via IVF is illegal in Australia, they petitioned a patient review panel for permission, which was denied. They’ve now appealed to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which is slated to hear their case in March. (More on Can a New Blood Test Make Babies with Down Syndrome Disappear?)

In the event that their appeal is unsuccessful, the couple has said they intend to travel to the U.S. for assistance conceiving a daughter. Since 2008, Victoria’s Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act has prohibited sex selection except in cases where it would allow parents to avoid transmitting a genetic disease. It’s legal — though still controversial in many circles — in the U.S., where pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PIGD) is used to separate XX from XY chromosomes for reasons of “family balancing.”

The Herald Sun said the couple, who has not been identified, said opting to terminate their twin pregnancy was “a traumatic decision to make but they could not continue to have unlimited numbers of children.” (More on Time.comWant to Freeze Your Biological Clock? One Doc Says, Go for It)

It’s not that the woman doesn’t love her sons; she does, but she says she is griefstricken over the loss of her daughter. Conceiving a girl has become an obsession “that has become vital to her psychological health.”

The case is stirring up plenty of discussion Down Under, where one doctor — described as an IVF “pioneer” — lined up behind the couple to express his support.

I can’t see how it could harm anyone,” said Gab Kovacs.

”Who is this going to harm if this couple have their desire fulfilled?”

But a leader of a group that opposes genetic manipulation presented the opposite viewpoint. If society okays one such case, the floodgates would swing open. 
”I’m sorry they lost their daughter but, in the interests of society as a whole, they should seek some counseling for their grief and look for another way of getting a daughter into their family,” said Bob Phelps, executive director of Gene Ethics.

”They sound like good parents and could offer a home to a child who needs one.” (More on Time.comLawsuit over Children Born the Wrong Color After IVF)

Satirists have weighed in too, in The Australian, where Stephen Lunn penned a deadpan Q&A between a physician and a hypothetical parent of three boys seeking assistance with sex selection:

Parent: My Honda dealer can customise my SUV, I can get my kitchen remodelled to incorporate a cappuccino maker and I want you to make our No 4 to be just right.

Obstetrician: You do realise thousands of women undergo the often painful and emotionally draining IVF procedure and never manage to conceive. Just to get a pregnancy is considered a miracle for many couples.

Parent: Blah, blah, emotional blackmail… how early can you test for IQ? Unless she’s smart, I’m not interested.

Obstetrician (loudly): Nurse!

Parent: Also, I want my daughter to be pretty, but not too pretty. I don’t want her life defined by her looks. And I want her to be confident but not boorish, bookish but not boring. And musical, let’s not forget musical.

Obstetrician: You don’t see any merit at all in the notion of life being a gift in itself and children being glorious uncertainties?

Me: Well, it’s not really about them, is it? It’s all about me.