Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Morally Irresponsible Product?

A Texas company recently released IntelliGender, an over-the-counter test which can determine the sex of a baby as early as 10 weeks into a pregnancy. Such a test and the resulting knowledge is morally neutral. However, what potential action could follow? This raises some interesting ethical concerns: sex selection and regulation.

The company claims 78-80% accuracy and of course comes with numerous disclaimers. A spokesman indicated they will not sell the product to China or India due to "sex selection concerns". Why would this not be a concern in all markets? Wouldn't this knowledge potentially lead to an increase in sex-selection abortions?

Should the product be banned? How can it be regulated? A comparison can be made with another 'neutral' product. A handgun is similar in that it is morally neutral. A handgun is a tool that is not evil in itself, but can be used for a good (self-defense) or an evil (Bank robbery) end. Therefore it is not justified to ban a neutral product. Regarding regulation, a handgun purchase can be restricted and laws enacted to govern its proper use. How would this be done for a "in-home" gender test? It simply can't. Restrict the sale by requiring a prescription? What would be the beneficial outcome? Restrict its use to a doctors office? To what end? Govern its proper usage? How do you mandate an abortion clinic report "sex-selection" as the reason for the abortion? This is neither enforceable nor reliable.

So this begs the question, why do we need such a product? Parents who want to know the sex of their baby can request it at an ultrasound. Perhaps the earlier the sex can be determined the 'less personal' it is to abort and start over until the desired result is achieved. I can think of no good reason to know the sex of a baby at 10 weeks gestation but I can think of a potential evil result. Just because 'we can' doesn't necessarily mean 'we should'.

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