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Gender Selection: Cultural and Religious Perspectives


Objective: To review the current developments in the field of preconceptual sex selection and to discuss the cultural and religious perspectives as that accompany the scientific progress.

Design: A survey of the major publications in Judaism, Christianity and Islam regarding the issue of gender selection. Examination of current methods of preconceptual gender selection revealed that in vivo methods such as timing of intercourse, the use of ovulation induction medications, and artificial insemination do not appear to affect the sex ratio to a clinically significant degree. In vitro separation of X- and Y-bearing spermatozoa by gradient techniques have been reported to alter significantly the sex ratio at birth. However, these trials were not controlled, and molecular biological techniques could not validate that these methods indeed change the Y- to X bearing spermatozoa ratio sufficiently for clinical use. Nevertheless recent scientific advances have made highly reliable preconceptual sex selection possible by using preimplantation diagnosis (PGD) or sperm separation by flow cytometry combined with AIH or IVF. At present, these methods have been used to avoid sex-linked disorders. Both involve the invasive procedure of IVF and thus are held by most as inappropriate for nonmedical indications. However, improvement in flow cytometry output of sexed spermatozoa might provide in the near future sufficient sorted gametes for artificial insemination. It may be that in the near future, an improvement in flow cytometry output of sexed spermatozoa will provide sufficient sorted gametes for artificial insemination. In such a case, the medical community will be forced to take a stand, whether this reliable noninvasive method of sexing will be allowed for social purposes and even if the practice of PGD should be allowed for nonmedical indications.

Conclusion: The requirement for a man to procreate by having a minimum of two children—a boy and a girl—is obligatory according to Jewish law. According to both schools, Beit Shamai and Beit Hillel, in order to fulfill the obligation of procreation at least one son is required. Therefore the application of sex preselection for nonmedical indications may by of practical importance using the method of sperm separation or sex selection of pre-embryo by PGD. According to Christian view, especially the one of the Catholic Church, gender preselection even for medical indications is forbidden. Islamic legal viewpoint is that fetal sex selection is lawful when it is practiced on an individual basis, to fulfill the wish of a married couple to have a boy or a girl through available medical means.

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Schenker, J.G. Gender Selection: Cultural and Religious Perspectives. J Assist Reprod Genet 19, 400–410 (2002).

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  • Religion and human reproduction
  • preimplantation diagnosis
  • sex preselection
  • sperm separation