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Another Saturday, Another Case of My Head Exploding

This morning, I read Cafemom’s post on PGD titled “People Who Spend Thousands of Dollars for a Baby Girl Should Reconsider Becoming Parents.”  Their post, written by Jacqueline Burt, was labeled a rant.  So I’m sure she will understand if I respond with a rant of my own, one that comes from actual knowledge of the technology and the scope in which it is used.

Dear Jacqueline Burt:

It was hard to get past the ethnocentrism of your opening line:

We all know about how in places like, oh, I don’t know, China, people are so brainwashed to want sons that they routinely abort female fetuses, right?

But I did, and I got rewarded with a heaping dose of your admonishment about how using PGD to determine sex is “another twisted example of human nature’s inherent screwed up-ness” as well as commentary on the price tag (hence the title): “The process runs couples about $18,000 a pop and approximately 4,000 to 6,000 procedures are performed annually. Because … I have absolutely no idea.”

I am aware that you are responding to the Slate article, even though, at no point do you actually clearly discuss the Slate article.  If one had not read the Slate article, they would have no clue what you were responding to, and I’m sorry, but providing a link doesn’t stand in place of framing a thought.  All people who use PGD for sex selection are lumped into the same category in your post, regardless of whether they’ve used it for social, emotional, or medical reasons.  Since you state that you have no idea why people would use PGD for sex selection, let me educate you.

I’m assuming that you aren’t familiar with the concept of genetic diseases that primarily affect one sex, such as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy or Fragile X, which affects boys at a greater frequency than girls.  While some use PGD to screen for the disease in which they are carriers, others still also control for the sex since the testing is not perfect and controlling for sex gives parents an added level of protection in not passing along a fatal illness to their child.  I’m sure, if you were a carrier of a fatal illness, you would also do everything in your power to not pass it along to another human being, “power” being the operative word.  The price tag of PGD is such that few Americans can afford to utilize it.

Beyond that, there are plenty of reasons that would be fairly cruel to describe as “screwed up-ness” that would also make a parent choose one sex over the other.  For instance, parents who have lost a daughter in neonatal death may want a boy so they do not feel as if they are replacing their dead child.  While you may not agree with that reason for using PGD, I think it’s cruel and unnecessary to heap such judgment upon them.

Oh!  But you say — I meant to apply this to the same people discussed in the Slate article, you know, like that woman they found who chose to do IVF with PGD in order to have a girl after giving birth to three boys.

The Slate article, while containing a misleading and inflammatory title, actually takes the time to distinguish between these outlier cases and not lump them in with everyone else, something you don’t do.  And as a result, you come off as judgmental and small-minded.

Beyond that, I don’t judge the woman in the Slate article any harsher than I judge women who marry men who are tall because they hope to have tall children, or women who won’t marry someone with dark hair because they want a greater chance to pass along their blondness.  I don’t judge women who try every trick in the book to have either a boy or a girl any more than I judge women who opt to spend $40,000 to have a girl instead of a boy.  The intention for control is there in every single one of us; how far we take that intention is a separate story.

Yours Truly,



1 Kristin { 09.15.12 at 1:37 pm }

Nicely said.

2 Cristy { 09.15.12 at 2:28 pm }

Designer babies is becoming an increasingly talked about topic in the media, despite the fact that most couples who undergo PGD do so to screen for healthy embryos and genetic diseases. Yet, time and again, no one focuses on this. No, that would make this issue a hell of a lot more complex.

The reality is, with any technology, there are going to be those who use it for purposes other than it was originally intended for. Yet, it doesn’t mean the technology is ‘evil.’

Bravo, Mel.

3 jjiraffe { 09.15.12 at 4:00 pm }

What Cristy said. And thanks for fighting these shitty pieces. There seems to be an overwhelming amount of them lately. (Not that there hasn’t been before.)

4 Steph @ Just Add Cloth { 09.15.12 at 4:09 pm }

Anything “elective” is just so easy for ignorant people to judge. Heck, our insurance companies lump it all together so why not? People tend to change their minds quickly once they themselces finally face some adversity!

5 a { 09.15.12 at 6:20 pm }

Ugh. I don’t even know how to respond without sounding like I want to censor someone. I don’t object to rants, but I hope she’s getting a lot of feedback on how she should do some research. Sigh.

6 Peg { 09.15.12 at 8:39 pm }

We have friends who used PGD to determine the sex because their older son had hemophelia and they didn’t wanted to avoid passing it on to another child. They have a beautiful little girl who is very much loved. People tend to see things so black and white when much of the world is a shade of gray ( no reference at all to one of your favorite tomes).

7 Peg { 09.15.12 at 8:41 pm }

I meant to write “wanted to avoid” typing on the iPhone is still a challenge for me 🙂

8 KeAnne { 09.15.12 at 9:19 pm }

Sigh. The Slate piece was provocative but good. That rant didn’t deserve to be published in any mainstream outlet. I’m sooooo tired of no one doing even a tiny bit of research anymore.

9 Esperanza { 09.15.12 at 11:38 pm }

Wow. Just wow. These articles make my blood boil. Thank you for trying to educate the ignorant writers who feel the never ending need to smear the IF community and the hard decisions it has to make. It’s so infuriating to think how many people read that article and yet won’t get to read yours. BLERG!!!!!!! I wish there were more we could do to combat these people. Seriously. They are so damaging.

10 Elizabeth { 09.16.12 at 6:18 am }

Thouhtful and fact-based post. I think her objections would be clearer and easier to swallow if she had more clearly named her uneasiness – that sex-selection is another potential venue for misogyny, a way to express a cultural or personal preference for boys. But, as you point out, uninformed and sensationalist.

11 Ellen K. { 09.16.12 at 9:10 am }

I begin to wonder whether “hyper-casual, inebriated conversation-style writing” is part of the CafePress stylebook.

I only know of one couple who has used PGD. Their first baby died at 18 months from an extremely rare disease. Their twin sons are healthy.

12 Roccie { 09.16.12 at 10:48 am }

Best title for a post ever.

13 B { 09.16.12 at 12:32 pm }

Lazy writing passed off as journalism.

Actually calling her rant writing is a compliment, it’s more akin to typing…..

14 lifeintheshwa { 09.16.12 at 4:54 pm }

PGD is also good for those of us suffering from recurring pregnancy loss. The thought of going through a 5th miscarriage because of a translocation breaks my heart, as does the cost of IVF with PGD, but that may be what it takes me to get pregnant, and what it takes me to stay pregnant.

15 Battynurse { 09.18.12 at 6:13 pm }

Very well said. I so wish I could write so elegantly, especially lately.

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