Thursday, September 18, 2008

Choosing your child's sex


Is it wrong to do things that will increase the odds of your child's gender? Female sperm live longer than their Y counterparts. Purposely trying to have fertilization occur a few days before ovulation so that more X's are around than Y's for conception is a mild form of "gender control." What about centrifuging those X's and Y's when you have to use artificial insemination to greatly increase the odds of which chromosome type fertilizes the egg? Even further, what about selecting an X and doing in-vitro to have a 99.9% success rate with gender selection? Is there any difference between any of these examples and if so, where do you draw the line, if there is one?

My wife and I have thought about this frequently considering that we have three boys and really would like to have a girl. For us it is more of an adoption question. We really want to adopt and we really would like a girl. Is choosing to adopt to get a desired gender wrong, even if our intentions are good? What if you adopt 60% because you can select the gender and 40% for the right reasons. Knowing that we have these personal questions, a close friend recently asked us if we knew the Church's official position and what our personal opinion was on the matter.

I'm familiar with the church's position on most matters for two reasons. The first comes from reading the Church's General Handbook of Instructions a couple of times. During bishopric meetings every Sunday during dental school (I was ward clerk) we would go through a section of the handbook to make sure we were aware of the proper methods of carrying out church activities. Secondly, as part of our biology major in undergrad at BYU Marisa and I had a class called bio-ethics. We went over the major ethical issues involved with biology from genetically modified food to euthanasia (yes, the children in Asia are doing fine!). Because it was a class at BYU we also were fortunate to receive the Church's official position where it had one. I loved this class because we had group sessions where we would decide what was the most ethical thing to do, both for the general public and ourselves as Mormons. There were very interesting times when these two didn't coincide.

I don't remember anything specific from that class on artificial insemination. So I did a Google search. Although you can't blatantly copy (hard or electronic) the handbook, it is ok to have sections copied and given to people for clarification. In that spirit I avoided looking for the handbook online, but don't mind copying a section found on a webpage that shows our policy towards a couple difficult issues such as this:
Artificial insemination is defined as placing semen into the uterus or oviduct by artificial rather than natural means. The Church does not approve of artificial insemination of single women. It also discourages artificial insemination of married women using semen from anyone but the husband. "However, this is a personal matter that ultimately must be left to the husband and wife, with the responsibility for the decision resting solely upon them" (_General Handbook of Instructions,_ 11-4). Children conceived by artificial insemination have the same family ties as children who are conceived naturally. The _General Handbook of Instructions_ (1989) states: "A child conceived by artificial insemination and born after the parents are sealed in the temple is born in the covenant. A child conceived by artificial insemination before the parents are sealed may be sealed to them after they are sealed."
That all seems pretty benign and doesn't tackle this issue of gender selection. I couldn't find anything specific to this issue from the church so if you do, please make a comment. My personal opinion on many things that happen in this life is that we get to choose and then we suffer/enjoy the consequences. This life isn't totally mapped out. I don't think that all people were preordained to be in the exact family that they ended up in. If a 16 year old girl chooses to give in to her boyfriend's wishes and gets pregnant then that spirit will end up with her as the mother. If she chooses to wait until later in her life when she is married to a different man than her previous boyfriend then that spirit will probably have headed to another family. The family the spirit goes to isn't 100% random either. Kind of like a happy medium between the two possible ends of the spectrum. If this is the case, then choosing your child's gender (and how many children you have for that matter) doesn't break down the perfect cosmic tapestry pre-woven in the life before this.

The similar subject of how many children to have can potentially help give perspective on this issue. There are probably many times when a family wasn't "supposed to" have another child, ie-some spirit waiting up in heaven for just this family. They end up getting pregnant. This then gives them the consequence and the joy of getting another spirit in their family. Choosing to (intentionally or not) have another child is totally up to them. So, I guess you can tell which way I lean on the main subject at hand, but I have to admit...I'm not totally comfortable one way or the other. If it came down to actually having the opportunity/necessity to make this decision I would have to go with the standard practice and one recommended in the handbook, together with your spouse take the question up with the Lord. When you get an answer from him you know you are in the right. The tough thing there is what to do when you don't get the 100% obvious answer...

21 comments:

Bennett Family said...

thx carson, you're awesome. i knew i could count on you and marisa to know where to look. :)
no comments?! maybe that means its not so controversial after all and i should just go with the ol' "it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission" rule! :)

Angela Hill said...

I'm going to put my two cents in, geared more towards your beliefs than mine because we all know that I think you should do whatever the hell you want.
I think the church doesn't have an opinion on it because it technically hasn't hit mainstream yet, (the sperm selection). And, I don't think the homework version of it is scientific enough to warrant a ruling/opinion. But all that aside I would have to say that if you believe that God is controlling everything or putting his hand in everything, then couldn't you say that if he really didn't want you to have the girl/boy you wouldn't get it? Even in the adoption process, you may set out to find a girl but in the end be drawn to a little boy.
Also I'm going to have to say that if the main reason you are adopting a child is for sex selection I would say think again. Adoption isn't an easy process and beyond that many of the children have serious issues through life. Even if you get the child from birth there's no guarantee that they will not struggle in life. A good portion of the people I know that adopted a child, their children have learning disabilities, they are developmentally slow and most have a form of ADD, (all those can be genetic by the way, it's not just parenting). So if you want to adopt you have to be ready for all of it.

Carson Calderwood said...

Thanks Angela, I always like hearing your thoughts. Though I don't think everything is controlled for us, I do think that if someone is to have a child of one sex that even though the spin, they could get another, or be lead to choose another as you said.

On a personal note, if we were to adopt we would definitely not do it for solely gender selection. We were hoping to have a girl so that that we wouldn't feel any pressure to have another child of our own and be "free" to adopt. Why bring another child into the world when you could help out someone in such a difficult circumstance. Ever since one of Marisa's best friends went to a Ukrainian foster home, Risa has had a strong desire to adopt.

Holman House said...

I too have had many thoughts surrounding adoption for our family. when the time is right I believe we will someday get involved in foster care or adoption, but admittedly horror stories from others leave me with many doubts. Am I going to be ready to face a number of unforseen challenges? Would it just be a million times easier to stick with what we have got and not add additional stress to our family? On the other hand there are so many children in need, who is going to take care of them? Can I honestly just say to myself that someone else will deal with it? I have so much love to give, and such a strong desire to do good, I can't quite put it out of my mind. I could go on and on with the questions, and obviously I'm still working it out, these are just some things rolling around in the back of my mind.
On another note, I am frankly surprised at your level of devotion to the handbook.
Perhaps I should go back to a previous post about what is doctrine, but I wanted to ask you this: in your opinion is a message from the first presidency or "approved by the first presidency" doctrine? Have you noticed any trends in the type/frequency/breadth of prophetic counsel and or doctrine throughout the years? Do you consider anything said over the pulpit as revelation?

Carson Calderwood said...

The best way for me to describe my personal view of what is doctrine is two fold:

1-The BOM, POGP, pure. D&C, mostly pure, but subject to change since it wasn't a direct translation from G-d but works voted upon to be scripture. Bible, see Articles of Faith.

2-everything else is kind of like law. The more something is used the more it is given credence as doctrine. At the same time, no matter how much credence something has it can be overturned (ie-priesthood ban). Because anyone, even the prophet, says things that are doctrine and things that are not, I take the above algorythm and my personal feelings (initial feeling and what I feel after asking if something is right/wrong) to put it on the scale of doctrine. To me there is no black and white line, but a continuum.

Your third question, no I don't consider everything said over the pulpit to be doctrine. It must pass the above tests first. If the prophet says something it jumps way up the scale versus if a seventy says it.

Holman House said...

Where on the scale would you put something a female said?

Carson Calderwood said...

Like everything else, it all depends on position, significance of the event, correspondence with previous statements, etc. Sex is irrelevant.

Marisa said...

Carson, you know I love you, but I think that's an easy out, because there are no positions in the church equal to the positions of men. A statement made by the Relief Society General President does not have the same weight (as far as doctrine is concerned) as any member of the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve, and I think many would say not even as much as a Seventy or Presiding Bishop. The women are well aware of this and so they do not preach controversial points of doctrine over the pulpit. All of the authority in the church is male and so I agree that sex is irrelevant, but not in the same way as your statement intends. (For other people reading this, there is no contention implied; Carson and I have very similar views on issues of gender in the Church and all the rest of this).

Carson Calderwood said...

What I mean with that is the following: if a Bishop says X and the General Relief Society President says Y, I take her statement over his (regarding the general church, not local stewardship). So, sex is irrelevant, it is all about position.

I'm surprised you would say that women don't approach controversial subjects after all the brouhaha that went on over Sister Beck's talk, "Mothers Who Know," though I must admit I'd have a had time trying to match that w/ another woman's talk.

http://www.lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-775-27,00.html

Carson Calderwood said...

So, do any of you buy what I said or do you think I'm either blowing hot air or fooling myself. The silence bothers me...

Marisa said...

What Pres. Beck said last year was in no way doctrinally controversial, it just hit a sensitive nerve for some women. And the ridiculous reaction to her talk was the most controversial part of it. I know that you know what I'm saying. Even though you might place more weight on what the General RS Pres says than your bishop, neither is very heavy-handed on doctrinal issues. Find me an example of a woman (in a leadership position) going out on a limb on a doctrinal issue. I'm too lazy to do it myself. And Eliza Roxcy Snow's O My Father (Truth is reason, Truth eternal Tells me I've a Mother there) doesn't count.

Cody said...

Interesting how far off topic this has gone. As for the original question, I know it's super cliche, but really, it truly is between you and the Lord. If you don't get that 100% answer, then he probably doesn't care either way. As for the gender, I don't think it matters if you adopt a girl to get a girl, or a boy to get a boy, or any other gender deciding methods. To me, the bigger question for a couple is: are we ready for another child. Not: should we have a boy or a girl. The reason the church hasn't given any clear cut doctrine one way or the other is because it's not a problem either way. If you want another kid, then do it, adopt, conceive, whatever. If you want a certain gender, then go for it. If the Lord intended for someone to have a certain gender, it will happen. He will find a way to either let you know for sure what you should do, or make it happen in ways you didn't foresee. As long as you are living righteously, things will work out for the best.
I personally don't feel our future is so set in stone. I.E., it's not like choosing to adopt a boy over a girl or vice versa is going to have some butterfly effect on our lives from what it "should" have been. This is just my opinion though, so take it for what it's worth, I am a doctor you know ;)

Cody said...

In response to Marisa, I disagree that Pres. Beck didn't say something controversial. If it wasn't controversial it wouldn't have triggered the massive reaction it had (I completely agree that said reaction was totally ridiculous and out of line though). Just because we agree with something and find doctrine to support it doesn't mean it isn't controversial.
Many of the opponents of her comments interpret the doctrine from the scriptures and the church handbook differently than we do, and they felt she was out of line to say such things.
To use the example of a male statement to support me, Lets exame Joseph F. Smith and his statements against evolution before he became prophet. There were many members of the church then, and many now who feel his statements are not controversial and are in harmony with the doctrine as they view it. You, Carson and I are of a different opinion though and as such feel his statements were controversial. But, again, this should all go back to the previous post from several months ago about what is doctrine and so forth.

Cody said...

One more thing I've been pondering today. Why did so many women over react so much when Pres. Beck basically told them that the family and home should be their top priority? I don't ever remember a reaction like that from men on any one of the many times the men have been instructed that their top priority should be their family- above their career, their church calling, or their personal pursuits. And yes, I understand that there are differences, but when you boil it down, it's the same message. Family first. Sorry to dredge this up again, I was just mulling this one over quite a bit today.

Brian said...

This comment is weeks late. I know. I agree with Cody. It doesn't matter if you try for one sex over another. Isn't that part of the fun/challenge? This topic is truly one that is for a husband and wife to make together. We get so focused on "doctrine" and what the church leaders have said that we forget that we have agency. We are free to choose for ourselves. Sure, the church leaders give us a starting point, some guidance. But it is ultimately up to us.

Cody - I don't think men have reacted the same way because we get our role. Sure, times have changed and we are expected to help out with the kids and housework while still providing for our families. I think the women are taking it the wrong way. I have had many conversations about this with women and many feel that what is being said is that they are to stay home, raise the kids, clean the house, have food on the table and not bother their husbands with problems or worries. You know, how it was during the "I Love Lucy" era. Of course, women get offended easier than men. (did I just say that?)

Katie B. said...

Interesting - I think the best way is to just pray about it. We are going through IVF now (fingers crossed for next week when we find out if we are prego again) and when we initially started I was very conflicted about IVF as even playing around with embryos feels sketchy. We found our resolution and I am sure you and marissa can find yours!

-mb

Carson Calderwood said...

Good luck Mike, I hope the results are positive.

Speaking of gender issues, are you having personal gender issues and therefore posting as your wife? ;-)

Anonymous said...

"Is choosing to adopt to get a desired gender wrong, even if our intentions are good? What if you adopt 60% because you can select the gender and 40% for the right reasons"

I'm curious how you define "right reasons"? thanks!

Carson Calderwood said...

IMHO, it is a very good desire to adopt to help pull that child out of the orphan system and put them into a home with parents that love the child. In fact, I would dare say that doing so in many cases could be seen as the best thing to happen to the child in their life. Even more so if the adoption is for a child in another country and at an early age. I've heard first hand from someone who worked in orphanages overseas that children can be born with normal cognitive functions, but due to a lack of social interaction in the orphanage they get developmental disorders that could have been avoided otherwise.

Anonymous said...

thanks! I also believe that adoption is very worthy. However, it can be very damaging to a child to emphasize that you "saved them" by adopting them vs adopting them because you wanted them to become your own son/daughter.
If you are truly interested in international adoption, I'd encourage you to look at the "With eyes wide open" workbook.

Carson Calderwood said...

Thanks for the suggestion, we'll make sure to add that to our list of readings if we decide to go down that road. And don't worry, having something as a motivation doesn't mean it will be a intentional imprinting technique :-)