An Australian couple recently made a very strange decision to terminate a pregnancy. They have three sons, and lost a baby girl shortly after her birth. They got pregnant again, using IVF. Then, they decided to abort the twin boys they conceived because they “want the opportunity to have the baby daughter they were tragically denied.”
Sasha Brown-Worsham at The Stir calls this a further tragedy. The couple terminated an otherwise viable pregnancy because they didn’t like the gender of the children they were expecting. I’m too deeply pro-choice to call it a tragedy. Sasha says they’re destroying life in trying to create the life they want, but that’s not quite right. I’ll stand behind a woman’s right to have an abortion for any reason. No one should ever be forced to be pregnant.
That said, I do find this couple’s actions appalling. From my armchair psychologist point-of-view, they’re flailing in grief. They probably shouldn’t be adding any children to their family right now, regardless of gender. Imagine if they do have a “replacement” girl, what life will be like for her? And for her three brothers? Shudder.
The couple are going to court now to try to win the right to use IVF for gender selection. I don’t know much about Australian law, but I’m sure that should not be allowed.
In India, so many couples chose to abort female fetuses that the population skewed heavily towards a male majority and the government had to outlaw the practice. In China, women routinely abort female fetuses, hoping their one child will be a son. What happened to this Australian couple when they lost their daughter was a tragedy, but it’s not one that can be undone with science.
A new baby won’t heal their grief. When they’ve gotten a handle on that, they should of course have the right to have another child, or as many children as they wish. The courts shouldn’t bend the law in favor of this one sob story though. Using IVF to hand-pick a child’s sex is a slippery, dangerous road.
Perhaps I’m being old-fashioned, and designer babies really are the wave of the future. But I worry that choosing your child’s sex before you conceive will only more deeply entrench gender roles and make sexism that much harder to fight. I’m glad Australia doesn’t allow it, and I hope that doesn’t change.