In fact ‘sex selection’ is just one aspect of the procedures performed during the pre-implementation genetic diagnosis and screening process for couples seeking help to have children.
Standard in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment at PIH costs around B200,000, with sex selection costing an additional B80,000 to B120,000.
The hospital has about 10 IVF cases a month, 20 per cent of which are couples who request to have the screening or ‘sex selection’ option.
In attempting to explain the legality of choosing the sex of your child, Dr Manop says, “In Thailand it’s not illegal to have sex selection surgery, but it has not been approved by the medical council yet.”
However, the practice is most definitely illegal in many countries around the world, including Australia, China and India. This has contributed to vast numbers of parents-to-be from those countries travelling to Thailand and Phuket every year to have the controversial procedure performed.
Regardless of the term used, the aim of the procedure is giving parents the option to choose the sex of their baby. What’s the big deal you may say? After all it’s their baby, they should be able to choose.
“Most of the couples who use the technology are international [visitors] from India, China and Australia. They want to level out the family and get a boy,” says Dr Manop.
For many, the problem doesn’t lie in the fact that such technology exists, but more why it is being used.
Besides the moral dilemma of recognising and thus legitimising the desire for parents to seek male children and ultimately profit from the offering of a solution, the full repercussions of this multi-billion baht business are yet to be seen.
As it stands, the current global sex ratio at birth stands at 107 boys to 100 girls, but sex selection has skewed this ratio in many countries – for example in India there are 112 boys born for every 100 girls, while in China it is a whopping 121 to 100.
There have been various studies conducted exploring the ramifications of gender imbalance in a population, with many finding that serious problems arise when there are insufficient women to marry: crime, an increase in prostitution, and ‘woman poaching’ from poorer countries are just three examples.
Regardless of your opinion on sex selection, being able to choose the sex of the baby before pregnancy, is obviously better than parents aborting the foetus upon discovering the gender.
This sort of ‘prenatal infanticide’, made possible by such technological advancements like ultrasound machines, has caused around 163 million girls to have been aborted globally in the last three decades as a result of sex-selective abortion.
Despite the privileged position that Dr Manop is in, even he can understand why sex selection is illegal in some countries, and why some object to it, “Maybe it’s something to do with ‘man wanting to be god’. This is why I personally don’t use the term sex selection.
“I understand why it’s illegal in some places like Australia or Europe,” adds Dr Manop, “Our job is just to find the good embryo, it’s up to the couple to decide [the criteria of] which one is ‘good’.”