The Federal Government's National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) last month released its updated Ethical guidelines on the use of assisted reproductive technology in clinical practice and research. The guidelines function as the point-of-reference for governments, academics and the ART industry, in terms of how issues such as IVF, surrogacy, and sex selection are practiced in Australia. Put simply, they represent the government's attempt to keep something of a lid on the Pandora's box of moral dilemmas associated with ART.
Immediately following the release, the media honed-in on the Council's decision not to recommend allowing parents to choose the sex of their baby. Associate Professor Mark Bowman, a fertility doctor, decried the decision as an 'arbitrary restriction'limiting "individual Australians' personal freedom to make informed reproductive choices." Another IVF clinician, Professor Michael Chapman, declared the decision a victory for "conservatives"
In addition to this kind of free market rhetoric, sex- selection advocates have adopted the euphemism "gender balancing" to suggest that sex-selective IVF is harmless, even virtuous, because it insinuates the striving toward a numerical equality of the sexes. This is a ruse designed to convey the idea that, by allowing parents to "pick 'n' mix" between boys and girls, a pleasing balance will be achieved. Yet nature already strikes this fine balance; one wonders how the meddling of "fertility specialists" can improve upon it.
In the cases where "fertility specialists" and "family planning experts" have intervened, they have made an absolute mess of things. For example, as of 2011, India had skewed the sex-ratio of its population to 94 females for every 100 males. The ratios in the city, where ultrasound clinics are most concentrated, are far worse. Put simply, the combination of ultrasound technology with legal abortion has resulted in tens of millions of Indian girls never seeing the light of day. IVF would simply ensure that many more Indian girls never get so far as the womb.
Admittedly, Australia is not India, but we are a multicultural society and it is a matter of fact that some of those cultures preference the birth of boys; a preference that would undoubtedly find expression via sex-selective IVF. Yet sex-selection advocates naively insist that choosing the sex of one's baby amounts to nothing more than a personal choice. What happens if the sum of individual choices starts revealing a certain bias; how will the equilibrium be restored? Moreover, the logic follows that any decision to normalise sex-selective IVF will inevitably normalise sex-selective abortion; for they are two sides of the same coin.
In a way, we have made it hard for ourselves to deny people the option of satisfying their preference for a boy or a girl via sex-selective IVF or, for that matter, sex selective abortion. This is because the 'mainstream' already uses IVF and abortion to privilege 'abled' children over 'disabled' ones, and so it would be hypocritical to assent to one discriminatory practice (genocide of Down's kids), whilst denying another (gendercide of girls).
Be that as it may, the NHMRC is to be applauded for its decision to resist the sophistic arguments being deployed by the ART industry. It is worth recalling how the sexual revolutionaries in the 20th century convinced the West to adopt contraceptive and abortive practices by placing these issues under the banner of "family planning." The insinuation - that contraception would be used judiciously to 'space' children (and save marriages), coupled with assurances that children would continue to be born in sufficient numbers, was a con. Indeed, the collapse in the birth rates of Western societies testify to it (Australia's fertility rate in 2015 was 1.8; the replacement rate is 2.1). The decline is hidden only by the influx of immigrants ushered in under the auspices of the multicultural project.
Similarly, the argument that sex-selective IVF is about balancing families constitutes a feel-good rationalisation designed to distract us from examining the profit motives driving IVF practitioners and the significant and pernicious side-effects associated with them playing God.
The more we try to physically eradicate what is undesirable in our children (to the point of choosing their own sex, according to our preference), the greater the burden we place on them. For what kind of trials will await these "perfect children" when they (and, more pointedly, their parents) realise that, no matter what their sex is and no matter how free of genetic defects and hereditary conditions they are, they remain subject to the same moral frailties that afflict everyone else? I suspect they we be the most beautiful, broken, little people we are ever likely to come across.
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