How Sex Selection Undermines Reproductive Autonomy
- 467 Downloads
Non-medical sex selection is premised on the notion that the sexes are not interchangeable. Studies of individuals who undergo sex selection for non-medical reasons, or who have a preference for a son or daughter, show that they assume their child will conform to the stereotypical roles and norms associated with their sex. However, the evidence currently available has not succeeded in showing that the gender traits and inclinations sought are caused by a “male brain” or a “female brain”. Therefore, as far as we know, there is no biological reason why parents cannot have the kind of parenting experience they seek with a child of any sex. Yet gender essentialism, a set of unfounded assumptions about the sexes which pervade society and underpin sexism, prevents parents from realising this freedom. In other words, unfounded assumptions about gender constrain not only a child’s autonomy, but also the parent’s. To date, reproductive autonomy in relation to sex selection has predominantly been regarded merely as the freedom to choose the sex of one’s child. This paper points to at least two interpretations of reproductive autonomy and argues that sex selection, by being premised on gender essentialism and/or the social pressure on parents to ensure their children conform to gender norms, undermines reproductive autonomy on both accounts.
KeywordsReproductive autonomy Procreative liberty Sexism Gender Sex selection
Sincere thanks to Adam Henschke, whose feedback helped to crystallise my ideas on reproductive autonomy, to the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback on earlier drafts of this paper, and to my husband, Jason, for listening to me go on about it.
- Arnold, F., and E. Kuo. 1984. The value of daughters and sons: A comparative study of the gender preferences of parents. Comparative Family Studies Journal 15(2): 299–318.Google Scholar
- Beauchamp, T.L., and J.F. Childress. 1994. Principles of biomedical ethics. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Christman, J. 2015. Autonomy in moral and political philosophy. In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by E. N. Zalta. The Metaphysics Research Lab: Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford University.Google Scholar
- ———. 2009. The parental investment factor and the child’s right to an open future. Hastings Center Report 39 (2): 24–27.Google Scholar
- Eliot, L. 2012. Pink brain, blue brain: How small differences grow into troublesome gaps—and what we can do about it. Oxford: Oneworld Publications.Google Scholar
- Fine, C. 2010. Delusions of gender : How our minds, society, and neurosexism create difference. New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
- Fine, C., and E. Rush. 2016. “Why does all the girls have to buy pink stuff?” The ethics and science of the gendered toy marketing debate. Journal of Business Ethics: ePub ahead of print. doi: 10.1007/s10551-016-3080-3.
- Hammer, M., and J. McFerran. 1988. Preference for sex of child: A research update. Individual Psychology: Journal of Adlerian Theory, Research & Practice 44(4): 481.Google Scholar
- Harris, J. 1998. Rights and reproductive choice. In The future of human reproduction: Ethics, choice and regulation, edited by J. Harris and S. Holm, 5–37. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
- Hendl, T. Forthcoming. Queering the Odds. The case against “family balancing.” International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics 10(2).Google Scholar
- Kane, E.W. 2012. The gender trap: Parents and the pitfalls of raising boys and girls. New York and London: NYU Press.Google Scholar
- Mackenzie, C., and N. Stoljar. 2000. Introduction: Autonomy refigured. In Relational autonomy: Feminist perspectives on autonomy, agency, and the social self, edited by C. Mackenzie and N. Stoljar, 3–31. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Meyers, D.T. 1989. Self, society and personal choice. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
- Mills, C. 2011. Futures of reproduction: Bioethics and biopolitics. Vol. 49. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
- Robertson, J. 1994. Children of choice. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Rothman, B.K. 2000. Recreating motherhood. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
- Sandel, M. 2004. The case against perfection. The Atlantic Monthly 293(3): 51–62.Google Scholar
- Sharp, R.R., M.L. McGowan, J.A. Verma, et al. 2010. Moral attitudes and beliefs among couples pursuing PGD for sex selection. Reproductive BioMedicine Online 21(7): 838–847.Google Scholar
- World Health Organization. 2015. What do we mean by “sex” and “gender”? http://www.who.int/gender/whatisgender/en/. Accessed February 27, 2015.