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Bioethics, Sex Selection, and Gender Equity

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Part of the International Handbooks of Population book series (IHOP,volume 11)

Abstract

Recent decades have seen major advances in assisted reproductive technology, allowing couples to have more autonomy over their reproductive goals. However, new technologies have also caused disturbing trends in sex selection that have threatened the gender balance in large countries like China and India. This chapter examines the emerging challenges and ethical dimensions of technological developments in reproduction as well as their policy implications. Drawing from latest population data, the chapter highlights the impact of selective reproductive technology on demographic trends (in particular, on sex ratios at birth). It also assesses the influence and surprising backlashes of public policies that have been put in place to limit the negative aspects of these new technologies. The chapter is illustrated with country examples. Bioethics and gender have long focused on individual rights, but the larger demographic consequences of reproductive technologies are invisible at this level. The chapter calls on demographers to enrich the bioethical debate through a population lens on bioethics.

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Fig. 33.1
Fig. 33.2
Fig. 33.3

Notes

  1. 1.

    Deselection of daughters refers to prenatal fetal sex diagnosis followed by selective abortions of female fetuses.

  2. 2.

    Medical abortion consists of taking two different abortion pills (using a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol) to end the pregnancy. It is usually available up to 10 weeks of gestation. Meanwhile, surgical abortions involve an operation to remove the pregnancy from the womb. Common methods using local or general anesthetic are aspiration up to 14 weeks of gestation or dilation and evacuation for second trimester abortions (see Chap. 28: The Role of Abortion in Population Policies of this Handbook [Crane & Maistrellis, this volume]).

  3. 3.

    According to Reuters, the business of sex selection is estimated to be worth USD 150 million in 2013, with a growing demand of about 20% per year (Kaye & Jittapong, 2014).

  4. 4.

    For example, one 1997 poster campaign read, “I want to be born with the blessing of mama and papa. I am frightened of abortion for being a girl. Please protect my life” (Rahm, 2020: 118).

  5. 5.

    See Chap. 24: Measuring the Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Impact of Population Policies of this Handbook (Tarsilla, this volume).

  6. 6.

    Peters and Nagel (2020: 1) in their new book coin these failed persisting policy ideas as “zombie ideas”.

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Rahm, L. (2022). Bioethics, Sex Selection, and Gender Equity. In: May, J.F., Goldstone, J.A. (eds) International Handbook of Population Policies. International Handbooks of Population, vol 11. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-02040-7_33

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