PROJECTSSex Selection

What You Can Do

  • Invite us to speak to your staff, board or community members about sex selection
  • Download our toolkit for reproductive rights organizations, Taking A Stance: Tools for Action on Sex Selection
  • Join our Working Group on Race, Abortion and Sex Selection - RASS
  • Help us organize focus groups on gender preferences and sex selection in your community
  • Join our expanding network of advocates from multiple sectors who care about this issue
  • Invite us to write a guest blog or article for your newsletter, or co-write an article with us
  • Look for our upcoming report on sex selection in the South Asian community (sign up if you'd like to be notified when it comes out)
  • Look for our upcoming article to health professionals on professional ethical guidelines.

Sex selection— using medical techniques to have a child of a specific sex—is a complicated ethical issue and the gateway to serious concerns about genetic trait selection and “designer babies.” How we deal with sex selection and protect women’s reproductive decision-making will determine how we address the ethical implications associated with designing babies, disability and eugenics in the use of reproductive genetics.

What’s the Issue?

Some groups consider the problem of sex selection to be the medical and genetic technologies used for the practice, and advocate for solutions that either ban the use of the techniques (sex selective abortions, sperm-sorting or embryo testing in IVF) or restrict the decisions that women and families can make about their families. We define the problem as the underlying gendered and family expectations that lead parents to prefer one sex over another and then use medical techniques to act on that preference. We are working to discourage sex selective practices and beliefs while protecting the personal reproductive decision-making of women and families.

Recently, anti-abortion advocates have proposed legislation that would ban sex selective abortions, and what they are calling “race-selective” abortions. They introduced federal legislation in 2008 and 2009, and legislation in eight states in 2010. While sex selection is an important and ethically complex issue, using it to ban abortions is not the solution.

What We’ve Done

We have a three-prong strategy for addressing this issue.

First, we are working with reproductive health, rights and justice organizations to defeat anti-abortion race and sex selective legislation. We’ve developed a national Working Group on Race, Abortion and Sex Selection that pro-choice advocates are welcome to join and we are developing tools and resources for advocates on the ground in multiple states.  We host a collaborative website that brings together resources for reproductive health, rights, and justice advocates to use in preparing for future assaults in the legislature and in the media. Resources include fact sheets, legislative summaries, data analyses, media messages, and PowerPoint slides. This website contains state-specific information, information on proposed federal regulation, voluntary professional guidelines, key news articles, and a calendar for posting related events.

Second, we are working with reproductive health professionals. Through presentations, workshops and writings we are encouraging them to strengthen and enforce their own professional ethical guidelines.

And third, we are working with the South Asian and Asian American communities in the United States to address the issue of son preference that can lead to sex selection. We are collecting data on attitudes toward son preferences and sex selection, writing reports and developing toolkits for community groups interested in engaging their members in changing social attitudes toward boys and girls.