Pre-Natal Sex Determination and Ethical Issues


Leslie Doty Hollingsworth, in her 2005 article, Ethical Consideration in Prenatal Sex Selection published in Health & Social Work by National Association of Social Workers, indicates that there is a need of ethical consideration in order to control and restrict the custom of scientific prenatal sex determination.

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It is possible to detect girl fetuses and abort them with the help of modern technology. Hence, modern technology hence has been a boon for the affluent women while it added to exploitation and death to the poor factions. Hollingsworth reports, “Preference of male children may be greater among African American and Hispanic” (Hollingsworth, 2005) communities. As it is when total US was taken into consideration it was found that “males were found to be the preferred sex”. (Hollingsworth, 2005) This means prenatal sex selection has caused a good number of abortion cases. It has also been reported by Hollingsworth, “Flow cytometry (sperm sorting) and preimplantation diagnostic tests of embryo (during vitro fertilization) are now available.” (Hollingsworth, 2005) This means male embryo would be sorted out. This means indirect death of the female due to scientific prenatal selection procedure.

In addition, it is not solely a western phenomenon, but rather the by products of circulation and accumulation of social stigma in certain area. The reproductive aspect of women brought on by the scientific communities also projects a mixed bag. Those who can have access are enjoying the freedom of choice for abortion, while those who do not take a step back into the cultural taboos, which ironically have become more pronounced with the advent of scientific development. This is mainly because the health issues have decreased in importance locally with the lower allotment of funds and attention. Due to poverty, women tend to neglect their health, particularly gynecological ones due to cultural and social taboos in many backward parts of the country.

As per the age-old sexual role, division gender has enforced the compartmentalization of male-female functions in society, at home and at the work place. While in sporadic places women have benefited form the liberal movement, in most developing countries women have taken a step back. In China for example, women will be two times more anxious to have an abortion after a boy child than a girl child will. In Iran, female mortality between 0-10 will be three times more like to die than boys. It is due to these types of gender inequalities that women all over the world are negatively impacted by scientific developments.


It should be noted that just because a scientific procedure is present, the society should not use it in its favor without considering the long termed ramification of the society itself. There should be an ethical consideration of all scientific commercial usage and prenatal sex determination should be a serious part of this ethical measure. The determination of prenatal sex is not an evil by itself. It can be used in many ways for the betterment of the society but society must not be motivated by social taboos and use the available resource to its short-term benefit. This is where the elements of social workers become such an important instrument. The social workers are the individuals who can motivate the general mass to adapt good sense and restrain from using the technology in a wrong and unethical manner.


Hollingsworth, Leslie Doty; 2005; Ethical Consideration in Prenatal Sex Selection; Health & Social Work; V 30, N 2, 2005; National Association of Social Workers; pp126-133.

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