Making a choice of baby's sex
Married couples have always been interested in knowing the sex, and sometimes in making a choice about the sex, of their babies. The chromosome techniques have made it possible to know the sex of developing fetus by drawing amniotic fluid and preparing karyotypes from cells derived from the fetus and floating in this fluid. There are clinics available now which can advise pregnant ladies about the sex of the developing fetus, so that the ladies can decide early about the abortion of fetus, if it belongs to the unwanted sex.
Recently techniques have also been developed, which will not require preferential abortion but will allow preferential fertilization by male (carrying Y chromosome) or female (carrying X chromosome) determining sperms. There are techniques available now, which allow separation of sperms carrying Y chromosomes, from the ejaculate of a man (through Ericson's method developed by R. Ericson of U.S.A.) to be used for insemination of an ovulating woman. This technique (using quinacrine stain) has been used in more than 50 sperm centres in the world including some in India (one in Bombay at Khar Road), with 80% success. Ericson has actually established a company named Gametrics Ltd. in California, U.S.A. which specializes in separating sperms with Y chromosome and hundreds of male children have been produced with its help.
Techniques have also been developed to separate sperms carrying X chromosome for artificial insemination leading to the birth of female children. This technique involves the use of sephdex gel column, in which sperms with Y, being lighter are trapped in gel and those with X being heavier reach the bottom of the column, and can be used for insemination.
The techniques permitting choice of sex of the baby have been condemned by many sociologists, who fear that this may disturb the sex ratio leading to a variety of problems. But some doctors argue that this will help couples in planning their families, since there are also couples who may like to have a female child. This may also allow selection against sex linked abnormalities in the children.