Babies, Parents, and the “Need to Know”

September 18, 2011

Uncategorized


Those of us who are fans of spy literature (Guilty! I shamelessly admit) know of the intelligence classification called “need to know.” Those cleared for “need to know” are told just as much as they need to pursue their objectives, but nothing more. In intelligence or military operations, this might mean you might be told there will be armed guards outside the safehouse you’re supposed to raid, but not why you are raiding the safehouse.

Let’s take the concept to a far less sinister world. Should parents know the sex of the baby they are expecting? Well, until the development of decent ultrasound not so long ago, the question was moot: they couldn’t. Maybe you could ask an astrologer, witch, or other similar person, but the fact was their predictions were, um, not so based on real information. (I wanted to say “crap,” but that would have revealed my pro-scientific bias.) It’s all different now: ultrasound technology allows healthcare professionals and the parents to know, pretty early on, the sex of embryo in the mother’s womb.

In the U.S., parents, routinely take advantage of this technology. Some don’t — a good friend of mine is pregnant right now, and she and her husband don’t want to know — but many do. There are a plenty of good reasons for why you’d want to know: you can start thinking about names, and if you’re into gendering your baby right from the start, you know whether to paint the nursery girly pink or manly blue. (Me, I find that pretty creepy, but maybe that’s just me.) There are also good reasons not to know. The ultrasound is not perfect, and a small but non-trivial number of babies’ sex is misidentified in the ultrasound or the babies are “intersexed.” You painted the nursery pink for little Mildred Gwendolyn, and here it is a boy after all. Damn!

In Europe, the European Council (not to be confused with European Union), wants to say parents are not in a need-to-know position when it comes to their babies’ sex before birth. Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reports that the Council’s equal opportunity committee is recommending a ruling for all of its 47 member states that parents not be allowed to know the sex of the baby they are expecting. The reason the equal opportunity committee has gotten involved in this business is that selective abortion, particularly to the detriment of girls, is regularly practiced in some member states. According to the article in the Telegraph, most of those member states are in the former Soviet Union. If approved, though, the ruling would apply to all member states.

There are lots of interesting policy questions to think about with this (potential) ruling. Should there be a ruling that applies to 47 pretty different countries? Or should there be differences? And if yes, on what basis? (Divide Europe into countries dominated by misogynist shits and enlightened cool people?) But the broader question, more appropriate for political theory, is what kinds of information people should have access to. That, it seems to me, is not settled either by the prevailing practice in much of the developed world (if we can have the info, you should have the info) or the groundbreaking new ruling. To say, I’m for, or against, this new policy, is to miss the reasons it is an interesting puzzle.

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About Mika LaVaque-Manty

I'm a professor of political science at the University of Michigan. I'm a philosopher by training, and I teach political theory.

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56 Comments on “Babies, Parents, and the “Need to Know””

  1. ianbaker2041 Says:

    I have a half sister who just turned four in June. She’s your typical four year old girl; right now, she’s elated that she can dress up as Dorothy for Halloween. She even told her mother (my stepmom) that she was going to have to accompany her as the Wicked Witch of the West. When my stepmom was pregnant with my half sister, however, she and my dad debated long and hard about whether or not to know the baby’s gender in advance. Having only discovered the gender of his two sons at birth, Dad obviously opposed knowing, but my stepmom wanted to know so that she could, as the article acknowledges, paint the room accordingly. Of course, Dad got overruled, but this post got me thinking about whether or not my stepmom really needed to know her baby’s gender in advance.

    I don’t think that she did need to know. Besides clothing and room color, everything else, from diapers to food to sleeping schedules, is the same with boys and girls. For clothes, there are gender neutral colors such as yellow, and at such a young age, gender differences are not too pronounced. Unless they were looking for a boy only, I can’t see a reason why knowing would make any real difference.

    Even though my stepmom did not need to know, she should have the right to know. The child is a part of the mother until he or she is born, and if the mother wants to know, I think that she should. To deny the mother the right to know seemingly contradicts every other medical standard in the industrialized world. If I went to a doctor tomorrow and was diagnosed with cancer, the doctor would obviously tell me about their disease (unless, for whatever reason, I didn’t want to know). Although babies are certainly not the same as cancer, the same point applies to both; if it’s part of one’s body, then one should have the right to know whatever one wants about it. Period. So now let’s get back to Europe.

    I can understand why some people there want to amend the law to avoid sex-driven abortions. That sounds reasonable to me. I can’t see any reason why female babies who had no choice in determining their gender should be aborted over male babies. The part that I take issue with is that they want to do this by limiting the rights of the expectant mothers rather than passing a new law to prevent sex-driven abortions. I would propose that Europe amend the law so that parents can continue to be told the gender of their unborn children but simply cannot abort the pregnancy after knowing. This would appease both sides of the situation; parents wishing to know could do so, and it would be much more difficult for sex-driven abortions to occur (assuming that the law was actually enforced). Since abortions are usually illegal by the time the fetus is developed enough to determine the gender anyways, I don’t see that changing the rule slightly would make much difference in nations not currently experiencing a problem with sex selecting abortions. It would only make a significant impact in countries actually facing this phenomenon as a major problem, which seems to be the goal.

    It is an interesting discussion, and with a rocky economy and a president under attack for “bad leadership,” we seem to hear less and less every year about abortion and its related issues here in the United States. Everyone wants to talk about spending and tax policy, but that’s beside the point here. Seeing something from abroad refreshes the somewhat stagnant discussion a bit and gives me something political that is somewhat out of the ordinary to think about.

  2. Laura Goslin Says:

    Personally, I think each country should decide if they should allow their citizens to know the sex of their unborn child. If the majority decides, which is just in this situation because I believe in Democracy. If you make a Universal law it won’t work with every culture. Chinese cultures value the male sex more, so the “right” path would be to outlaw it. But sometimes Democracy sometimes doesn’t work, so I don’t know what you would do in those situations. It is my view that it is better to keep the majority versus the minority content.
    An issue that pertains to this topic of how much truth citizens should be allowed to know is the topic of Wikileaks. Wikileaks is a company that unveils hidden government information. The main argument is that it threatens the security of the American people by destroying trust between us and other nations. I believe that the truth should be known, in almost every situation. Exceptions would include secret war plans or invasions. Otherwise, why should the information be hidden from the public? The only way this should be illegal is if the information is found out by illegal means such as murder, or illegal wire taping, or breaking into a building. Having an inside man isn’t at all illegal. So in conclusion, yes I am for Wikileaks, it is the inner anarchist inside of me speaking out.

    • Steve Dougherty Says:

      > Personally, I think each country should decide if they should allow their citizens to know the sex of their unborn child. If the majority decides, which is just in this situation because I believe in Democracy.

      I think a substantive approach may be worth considering here. It’s difficult to balance the biasing feeling that one’s own culture is “correct” with respect for aspects of other cultures that seem disagreeable. I think a safely low bar is that cultural understanding runs out where purposefully causing death is involved.

      That said, this may be an unobtainable ideal, as any system intending to address such things would inevitably be flawed. Imposing ideals counter to a culture seems like asking for failure as well.

      I don’t advocate restricting access to information, either, so it’s a difficult problem. Perhaps if attempting to impose such a restriction is doomed to fail, at least in this case consequences will force cultural change? I notice that this article specifically mentions ultrasound as increasing selective abortion.

  3. Lilian Baek Says:

    Surprisingly, when I read this post, I thought the author had listened in on a conversation I recently had with my girlfriends. Was it about politics? No. What we should do on a homework-free Friday night? Yes, but later in the day. The topic at hand was whether or not we were “accidents”; You know, whether or not your parents were expecting your arrival. One girlfriend said she was indeed an accident, while the other said her parents jokingly told her that they picked her up from under the bridge. I, however, didn’t have an answer to the question because the thought had never crossed my mind. For some reason though, the question was lingering in my mind until the next day, so I decided to call my mom to confirm. The response? My older sister had been begging for a sibling (which in my opinion, my sister was getting tired of playing with her Barbie dolls and was excited to torture someone-me) and they thought it would be nice for her to have someone else around. She then continued by telling me that she was glad she had two daughters instead of a son (no offense to the guys reading this.) The last comment was interesting to me considering in early Korean tradition, it was desirable giving birth to a boy, considered almost as a gift. This is where the topic of ultrasounds kicks in. Had the traditional families had access to ultrasounds, selective abortion would’ve occurred as mentioned in the post. However, I believe that the government needs to find its way out the door when it comes to controlling the access to ultrasounds and demolishing the freedom of the parents-to-be. Whether it is good or bad information, people should have access to information to any extent if it is available. Hiding certain pieces of information would be unlawful and cruel. Thus, there should be a ruling that applies to all countries: one in that it allows people to know the sex of their child. There is absolutely no reason why each country should have a separate ruling. This would only cause havoc and pandemonium. I understand the government is concerned about its constituents and whatnot. But, to hide or deny access to information to people is not benefitting, but in actuality, harming people.

  4. Michael Zanger Says:

    This is an interesting question. The development of science and technology allows for the progression of our society to better itself, but in some instances it seems to project and promote the abuse of irresponsible and careless individuals. In my opinion, it is a woman’s right to choose (pro-choice). When individuals are choosing based on their baby’s sex rather than ability to care for the child, birth defects or disabilities the child may face in its life, etc., another problem develops, causing the already controversial social topic of abortion to regress into another political debate.

    Intersexed babies, though rare, are odd cases. Doctors must ultimately decide the sex of the child before the departure of the parents and baby into society. In some historical medical cases, doctors simply chose the sex of the baby without parental consent and knowledge. Children grew up feeling closer to the gender which coincided with the opposite sex to what they were (there is a big difference). The concept of brain sex in psychology suggests that we as humans are, in fact, “programmed” to a sex (ultimately leading to gender or multiple genders).

    I believe the European Council is trying to respond progressively positive in this matter, but not effectively compromising (on the terms of freedom of information and knowledge to which parents is abusing the powers).

    Does anyone believe that society should be made more aware of intersexed babies and people that walk amongst us?

    I suggest (though I know nobody has time to read anything for “fun” right now) reading Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.

  5. leannaprairie Says:

    In reference to this particular topic, I think it should be a matter of personal choice. I don’t believe that government should have a say in whether a parent finds out the sex of their baby. Not only do I think it should be a personal choice, I agree with the previous comment (Laura), in that it is unlikely that one law would work for all 47 countries, which, as the author states, are all pretty different.

    I have a hard time with the idea that a universal law can be applicable to the masses. I know our legislators try to write laws that benefit the majority, but I think that this is a problem with our government today. We always try to please the majority. A lot of the time, majority rule is a good thing, but when it comes to issues such as abortion rights, gay marriage, budgeting issues, I really wish it were possible to make decisions on a personal case-by-case basis. There are so many extenuating circumstances that can occur in our individual lives, and I think we would be a much happier, intelligent country if we were able to take these things into account, instead of creating one umbrella of a law for all. A girl can dream, right?

    As far as the issue of WikiLeaks goes, I do agree that the public should have access to government information. It’s our government, we elected them, shouldn’t we know what the heck they are doing? However, as Laura states, there are certain things that we probably shouldn’t know about (her example was secret war plans and invasions), because that knowledge would probably do more harm to the masses than good.

  6. jsimon99 Says:

    I believe that all parents should be allowed to know the sex of their unborn child as soon as they can/want to know. It is their own child and they should not be hidden at all from their own baby’s sex. There is no reason for the government to get involved unless they see an extreme crisis for whatever reason of there not being enough boys or girls in the world in the near future, but that should never be the case. It’s our humanly right to know the sex of our child. It is like the goverment one day thinking of encouraging parents to have more or less babies so there is an even amount of the same sex. The “need to know” is completely fine.
    This may contridict me from the side I was on in the previous paragraph, but information should be hidden from the people. This is a very different situation. We elect the people in government to make national decisions for us, so we should trust them. They are not trying to go against us with the information they have hidden, they are just making sure it does not get into the wrong hands to threaten our nation’s security in any way. Why do people need to find out so bad about what is being hidden from the people? We should trust our government even through its ups and downs.

  7. madelinedunn Says:

    With the age of the internet, there is an abundance of knowledge spilling out of our computer screens waiting to be beamed into our memory database. As of right now, the internet is under minimal restriction and the community, thats you and I, has access to an abundance of information. It is almost a task in itself to try and find a topic of interest that does not have some type of blog forum or website associated with it in cyberspace.

    Having access to information that is related to our health and safety is essential. Finding out the sex of your child before he/she is born into our world does not necessarily fall into either of those categories. Science has come a long way and I am sure many people feel that they have the right to use this technology for themselves, especially if their taxes are contributing to that research. However, I believe that society needs to be more driven to demand that we receive information regarding our communal and personal wellbeing.

    One issue that I find particularly pressing is that of plastic water bottle production. If you have ever really looked at the label on any commercial water bottle, you would notice that the iconic images (maybe a waterfall or mountains) and symbolic text (pure, fresh, healthy) signifies that this water is good for you. Now this label does not say that their water is ‘better’ than tap water, however it sure does imply this message.

    Is the packaged water you buy from the supermarket, 7 Eleven, or even a Michigan University campus store really pure and free from carcinogens or other toxic chemicals?

    One issue here is that we are being denied access to most of the toxicology reports filed by these bottle producing companies. The FDA only mandates companies to file reports for those water bottles that are being sent across state lines. If their water is crossing state lines and the company does have to test their product, these tests are not coming from independent sources, rather from the company itself.

    To top it all off, the FDA does not mandate these companies to publicly file their, rather biased, toxicology reports. I am sure you realize that it is much cheaper for a company to get its water from the same state that it is selling the product in than it is to ship it across the country. So what directive do you think Nestle, the largest food packaging company in the world, takes? This information is vital to our health, wellbeing, and the amount of trust we put in these companies that supposedly are providing us with a healthy alternative to the typical Mountain Dew or SunnyD beverage.

    Water purity tests have been done by various independent sources, such as groups producing a journal or documentary on this subject matter, and the results are shocking. http://www.ewg.org/reports/BottledWater/Bottled-Water-Quality-Investigation (Also see Tapped a documentary that touches on many aspect of this matter. You can watch it instantly on Netflix). The fact that the FDA knows that these chemicals are in our drinking water and not only doesn’t tell us but also doesn’t require company testing to be public is a very scary thing. How much other ‘vital’ information are they keeping from us?

    Politically, this boils down to how much government control do we want in our day to day lives. We are not being forced to buy this product, although they do a great job louring us into just that, so why should we get upset that they are also not providing us with the reports on whether or not this product is safe to be drinking? It is my opinion, that a commodity such as bottled water, which is at times being sold at 19,000 times the cost of production, should at least hold up to the standards that are printed on the label of said bottle (i.e. pure, fresh, healthy).

    Information such as this is what I expect us to have access to. Yes, knowing the sex of your child would be very convenient, however, it is not a life or death situation.

    Want more information on water purity? Visit http://www.allaboutwater.org/environment.html

  8. ianbaker2041 Says:

    I don’t really think this is a matter that nations should get involved with at all. Let the anti-government part of me come out when I say that citizens of a country should have the right to make their own decisions regarding ultrasounds and knowing the baby’s gender ahead of time; I don’t think that this should be a centralized choice. The leaders of a country cannot know the answers to many vital questions about pregnancies in its citizens. Let’s look at one example. Maybe, as the article acknowledges, the family needs to know the baby’s gender to plan out living arrangements. Limiting parents’ right to know the gender of their unborn baby seems senseless because it limits individual rights with no real benefit for the society as a whole and can make preparations for the baby, such as living arrangements, clothing colors, and room painting more stressful since all must would now have to be arranged after the baby’s birth. When my stepmom was pregnant with my half sister, this was a legitimate issue, and had my stepmom not known the baby’s gender in advance, she could not have bought clothes or figured out where the baby would live. When parents are restricted from information that they need, it does not create a good situation for anyone because the parents are forced into a more stressful situation, and society is neither better off nor worse off than it was to begin with.

    As I wrote the first paragraph, I started to think about federal bureaucracy and the secrecy that surrounds so much of it. Beyond babies and pregnancies, the whole argument revolves around how much, as citizens, we should have the right to know and what information should be withheld in the interests of national security and protection of society (as other commenters have discussed). In my opinion, citizens should be permitted access to information that if made public does not threaten society as a whole. Knowing the gender of one’s baby would hardly fall under “dangerous information” because there really is no way for these facts to adversely impact others. On the other hand, top secret information concerning America’s relations with other countries could, if such information fell into the wrong hands, negatively impact us as citizens. It’s for this reason that I oppose WikiLeaks and others who want to see more transparency from agencies such as the US Department of State (in sharp contrast to what one of the other comments says). For me, the difference between knowing the gender of a baby and knowing America’s plans for the War on Terror fall into two completely different categories of information, and each should be handled differently. Individual rights should be upheld and seen as very important important, but they should not go so far as to put the rest of society at risk. As far as I can see, sharing the gender of the baby with the parents doesn’t put society at risk

  9. jcmandel Says:

    In the United States today we don’t have an evident selectional abortion problem, exactly why it is allowed and up to the parents to decide if they want to know the gender before birth. When it comes to the 47 different member states of the European council different rules should apply. There should not be one universal rule for all the different countries part of the council. If one country has had no problems with selective abortion or abortions detriment to either gender, than being able to know beforehand should be left up to the parents. In a country, like a few in the former Soviet Union, that has selective abortion issues, a ruling needs to be enforced. In a country like that the information shouldn’t be given to the parents before birth. In a greater sense I believe that people should only be given access to the information they need access to. Giving too many people too much information can be way to dangerous in certain aspects. Information on what gender child your going to have is not dangerous information in most cases, and should be given to the parents if they desire it.

  10. Huzefa Khalil Says:

    For better or worse, comments seem to be directed towards the question of should parents be allowed to know the sex of their children. For those of you who want some more information on this topic, fresh from the Economist:

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/09/gender-inequality
    http://www.economist.com/blogs/newsbook/2011/09/gender-inequality
    http://www.economist.com/node/15606229

  11. kelseymlee Says:

    I feel that there are certain instances when people should be put on a need to know basis, but the issue of having the right to know the sex to your own baby goes beyond any “need-to-know” policy.

    I feel that if a specific issue has to do with a person’s own body or family situation then they have the right to know as much information as possible about that issue. When the author states that some countries do not want couples to know the sex of their baby because they fear that a woman may chose to abort the baby, I feel that this crosses the line. People should always have the right to know about their own body. This issue also relates to a bigger problem, because through withholding information about the sex of the baby, a woman’s right to choose what she wants to do with her body is also taken away. While it is true that some people may choose to abort their baby once they find out it is not the sex they hoped, many individuals will also choose to keep their baby. The right to know the sex of their own baby should not be taken away because other people have moral views that do not align with the moral views of the government.

    In my opinion, when it comes to a very personal issue such as the one the author describes above, people should have access to as much information as they as they feel necessary, and they should also have the right to act on that information however they see fit. By restricting and limiting such information, I feel that the government will have intruded way too much on the personal lives of their citizens, affecting the way people wish to live their lives, while also stirring up avoidable anger and frustration against the government.

  12. haybraun Says:

    I also agree with leannaprarie that the government should not be allowed to withhold the information of a child’s gender . It is a parent’s right to know, if they desire, what gender their baby will be. In justification of that statement, I look at in a very literal sense; the baby is still part of the mother until birth, and to deny the mother information on the gender of her baby would be denying her access to her own medical information.
    Another argument is: who is the government to say what information in a persons life is “need to know”? The definition of “need to know” is extremely ambiguous and alters from person to person. In this situation, some people can argue that knowing the gender of their baby is a “need to know” piece of information. Knowing the gender will help reduce stress in planning the child’s living environment, buying clothes etc and can be valued very highly by some parents. Other parents may be indifferent or not want to know, but I think it should be their right to make that decision. In other words, I believe the parents shouldn’t be restricted by a “need to know” ideal but as citizens be guaranteed a “right to know”.
    If the government is concerned with abortion based on gender, I think it must be dealt with in an alternate manner. There are many other ways to advocate change. The countries that still practice selective abortions could set up government incentive programs to discourage the use of selective abortions, embark on campaigns against it, along with other persuasive methods. There are many alternate solutions that could be tried, but it shouldn’t be the governments’s job to restrict information to try and create reform. It’d basically be like saying “I have this information but I’m not going to tell you because I don’t know if I’m going to like a decision you make based on it” which doesn’t seem to be a very constructive answer.

  13. erfreed3 Says:

    In my opinion, it is the parent(s) and only the parent, that should have a say in knowing (or not knowing) the gender of their unborn infant. This scenario is a familial one, and one in which the government need not interfere. The European Council really has no business getting involved in this type of personal matter. They would argue that by taking this stance, the problem then becomes that if parents may abuse their choice of knowing the infant’s gender, such as is the case of selective abortion. Nevertheless, immoral this may seem, I still have to say I am pro-choice. I surely do not agree with selective abortion but with freedom sometimes comes misuse. However, this does not mean that society has to sit idly while parents choose to abort their unborn females. In this case we should offer alternatives such as adoption to those parents. Furthermore, if the parent really does not want a child of a particular gender, an option such as adoption, may in some circumstances turn out better for the child.

    In more positive terms, knowing a child’s gender can help parents make decisions earlier. This not only applies to the naming process and pre-planning rooms but also other events related to gender, such as the bris, in which a Jewish male infant is circumcised after eight days. As said in earlier comments, this case is not one of national security. A mother and father learning their gender of their infant does not threaten you, me, or society itself. Parents should have the right to know without interference.

  14. shmily4k Says:

    In my opinion, it is the parents’ discretion to decide whether they are going to perform the prenatal diagnosis. I understand that the European Council is involved in this issue because prenatal diagnosis might lead to sex-selective abortion, which could create severe social consequences such as a substantial imbalance of boys over girls within society. However, there are a lot of other measures that can be done to prevent sex-selective abortion, instead of simply obliterate the right for parents to know their babies’ sex before birth. For example, sex-selective abortion is illegal under Indian law. If the law is strictly enforced, it can help to reduce the number of practices.

    Even if the European Council passed the ruling that parents are not allowed to know the sex of the baby before birth, the ruling should not be applied to all its 47 member states. Variation should be applied to this ruling in different states based upon the needs of the particular area. For instance, if Spain has a severe imbalance of boys over girls due to sex-selective abortion, the ruling should be harshly enforced. In areas that the social consequences are not that apparent, the ruling can be loosely executed.

    An issue that the government should consider before disclosing the information to the public is that whether this piece of information would interfere social order. The government has the responsibility to keep their countries intact and safe. As long as the information would not interfere social order, people should have the right to access that.

  15. ndreynolds864 Says:

    The European Council should not have the authority to force people not to know the sex of their child before it is born. They do have a justified reason in the case of protecting against selective abortion which I think is a very good reason, but it should be up to the parents of the child to decide whether or not to know the sex. Majority opinion should not be included in this type of decision because knowing the sex of the baby does not affect other people. It is the individual rights of the parents to know the sex and the general public’s opinion and the European Council should have no say in determining this issue. It should be a decision solely made by the parents of the child.
    Knowing the sex of a child before the birth is a good thing in order to prepare not only the rooms and names of the child but it also allows for an easier baby shower. I have heard cases of people having baby showers and where they went in blind on the babies sex and they receive the wrong clothes, toys, and decorations for their child. If the sex is known then the family can receive gifts that are better suited toward the sex of their child. This isn’t just a convenience for the family but it also helps the family economically get started with their children. Having a baby is an expensive time so this economic help from receiving gifts from friends and family helps the parents get their feet underneath them to start a family. If the gender is known before hand this not only is not a only preparation but also a financial aid for the family.

  16. samdickstein Says:

    Personally, I think that the knowledge of one’s child’s sex pre-birth is not in the “need to know”. While the ability for us to have access to this information shows modern scientific progress, it seems as though this information can only cause complications. Firstly, it makes the controversial issue of abortion more prevalent in everyday life. Many countries still run a heavily patriarchal society based heavily on rural land work. For this lifestyle, reproduction can be used as a means for additional labor to aid the family business. If a family was able to find that they were having a girl when they were looking for a boy to work the land. With the knowledge of an unborn female, a family might choose to abort the pregnancy and try again to cut costs of raising a girl. Not only are there serious questions as to whether this is ethical, but this also has the ability to set up a male-heavy population dynamic, which can be detrimental to a societies future.

    A prime example of problems that can arise with knowledge of a child’s gender pre-birth is the gender imbalance in China. Already touched upon slightly by Laura, boys are much more valued than girls in the rural Chinese culture, and with the 1980 one-child per couple limit to curb population growth, girls are often aborted. Because of this the girl-boy ratio is become increasingly skewed. As of 2005, there were almost 120 boys for every 100 girls born. If sexes were not released before birth, this problem population imbalance would be voided.

    It is clear that the pre-birth knowledge of gender can only cause complications and for that reason should not be released.

  17. jacola Says:

    While yes, I already agree with several others who have deemed that parents wanting to know their child’s sex is a familial manner in which the European Council should not intervene, I want to analyze this post from a different angle. Technology has seeped its way into every aspect of our lives. Say goodbye to pen and paper and goodbye to the unknown, because with the intelligence of mankind comes the potential to create a technological innovation that will be capable of calculating anything and everything. The example of this technology take over that is seen in this blog post is that of an ultrasound, an examination that determines the sex of a baby before it is born. Ever since the test was introduced it has gained significant popularity and is now considered pre-natal routine.

    It should not come as a shock that ultrasounds are so commonly used, because with the world we live in today, people yearn for and trust technology. With Apple completely changing the way we go about performing daily activities such as reading the newspaper and calling up a friend, America and other countries have been trained to not only accept technology, but to embrace it. New innovations like the iPad, iPhone, Android, etc. are advertised excessively and citizens are encouraged to adapt to the new technology and trust in these companies and their products.

    That being said, it is absolutely hypocritical for the European Council to attempt to limit access to strongly developed technology. With technology being shoved down consumers throats in trivial aspects of life such as at the deli counter of the grocery store – where it is no longer sufficient to personally communicate your order to a person behind the counter, you now must order via a touch-screen computer – it is ludicrous to restrict the use of technology in regards to health and science. While knowing the sex of your child may not be necessary, there is also no harm in utilizing this information either. With technology always being so encouraged, it does not seem right that the European Council chooses the use of this innovation to restrict. Not only is the European Council logically wrong in this action, they are also morally wrong for intervening in the personal matter of using ultrasounds.

  18. danieltarockoff Says:

    This is pretty ridiculous. You can’t know the sex of your OWN child until it’s born? Abortion is not illegal, at least in America (check http://www.pregnantpause.org/lex/world02.jsp for specific abortion laws around the world), so why would the government ever have the right to deny a parent access to the sex of their child, based solely on the idea that the parent MIGHT want to abort the baby? Government control has gone too far. What’s next? I know I’m sounding pretty antigovernment here, but it’s issues like this that make me feel like it’s time for a radical change in law, and human interaction in general. I understand that certain laws are necessary, and without them there would be certain chaos; but when it comes to the point of control over your own body, your own decisions, I think we have lost our true rights as human beings. We have made so much progress in the past century, it’s almost incomprehensible. We have gone from the separation of races and sexes in society, to an astounding integration of all cultures, religions, and backgrounds. Yet we still have problems. Gays aren’t offered equal rights. You have the right to harm your body with cigarettes and alcohol, but not marijuana. Where do we draw the line?

    I believe we are headed toward a much more liberal world. In the next 10, 20, or maybe even 50 years, I believe we are going to see an incredibly drastic change in society. As the older generations eventually die off (sorry to sound so grim), they are going to be replaced with younger, more liberal people. Obviously there will still be young people with very conservative views, but I believe in general the distribution of liberals and conservatives won’t be nearly as evenly balanced as it is today. With the access to unlimited information via the internet, we are becoming much more aware of what’s going on in the world. It makes me wonder, what kind of things are we going to be looking back on with regret, yet also a curiousity as to how we had ever thought that way in the first place? Today, we can agree that slavery is wrong, but that clearly wasn’t the case when it existed. What will we be able to agree on in the year 2500? Will we look back and say “wow, I can’t believe they treated gays that way” or “I’m shocked so many people believed in God?” I don’t know. Nobody does. But one thing is for sure; there will never be a consensus on every debatable topic. When problems are met with solutions, new problems arise. And so continues the cycle. Sorry for the completely random departure into a broader aspect of the issue at hand, but I feel it’s important to realize that this blog post goes much further than simply deciding whether or not a parent has the right to know the sex of their child. All in all, I fully support the ideas of John Stuart Mill and believe that if we continue to expand our freedoms, we will eventually live in a much better world.

  19. Alexandria Novo Says:

    This post reminded me of the movie Gattaca – a movie from 1997 about a man who was born naturally was refused his dream job due to his bad genetics. It sounds lame when I explain it, but the movie brings up interesting ethics issues with the advancement of technology. They conceived their first son naturally, and he was only expected to live 30.2 years so their second son they picked an chose his genes, and he was physically superior to his brother and was given more opportunities in life due to his genetics. The mom’s eggs are fertilized with the dad’s sperm and early in the pregnancy the DNA is mapped out to see what traits each potential child could have. The parents then got to pick which child they liked best – genetically speaking – and the others were terminated. Just a quick note about this is that ONLY the genes from the mother and father are used – there’s no gene splicing and only human DNA is used.

    I really like this movie because it raises so many what if questions. What if my child doesn’t have to inherit the physical attributes I hate about myself? What if my child never has a genetic illness? What if I don’t do this and everyone else in society does, is my child at a disadvantage if I don’t have a designer baby?

    Babies who are selected based on their genetics are termed designer babies, and they do exist. And no one really knows how far this is going to go or how much genetics reveals about a person as far as personality is concerned. But the more important question raised by genetically engineering humans is what traits make a person not worth existing? Would someone not want a fat child? What about an alcoholic? What about someone who has acne?

    Back to the main point about gender. I feel it doesn’t harm parents to know the gender, and it should be their decision. I only worry once science advances, what other traits are we going to begin to select against and eventually try to weed out of society. There are hundreds if not thousands of diseases we could eliminate if genetic screening is performed at the beginning of a pregnancy, but I worry about what the human race will look like in the future if physical attributes will be screened and possibly selected against.

  20. Jack Lang Says:

    I feel that parents have an absolute right to know the gender of their baby prior to birth and that the European Council should not intervene and disallow it, nor should the countries themselves. As mentioned in the initial blog, it can be an enormous time saver as parents can ready the nursery if they want the room to be gender specific. This could allow the parents to spend more time with their child and hopefully to become better parents. It also takes a lot of stress of the mother before going into labor because she can pre-determine the baby’s name.

    The opposing argument is that the discovery of the baby’s gender could result in the parent’s decision to have a sex-selective abortion. This could also create a society with a significantly higher percentage of one sex over the other and perhaps create a noticeable minority. It would also be a shame to see more abortions simply because adults wanted a boy over a girl or vice versa. This opinion, I should explain, is coming from an individual that is pro-choice and believes that women should have the option of abortion for whatever reason they have. A decision based on gender would be a horrid reason, in my opinion, to have an abortion. But, who would be the person to decide what an adequate reason to have an abortion would be? I think it’s safe to say that the subject of abortion would be better left as a procedural process versus a substantive one.

    That being said, I feel as though I should respond to the blog’s final question as to what types of information a member of society should be permitted to hear and what types they should not. Primarily, anything that directly affects an individual creates grounds for that person to be told. This can be something as simple as learning their child’s gender before the baby is born. But what should also be included and many times is not, is a matter of public safety. If there have been a relatively high number of robberies in a specific area, I feel that it is very necessary for the people to know. The only occasions that would not require information to be passed to a person in possible danger would be news such as the possible reason they are being evacuated from an area. If everyone was told, the whole area could become chaos and the overall purpose of the evacuation would be sacrificed.

  21. roshray Says:

    Monopolizing knowledge is scary business. In developed societies, most people’s skill set is fairly limited; they are educated and experienced in their field, but cannot transfer to another one without some degree of difficulty. In highly specialized fields, such as medicine, law, or engineering, professionals in the industry normally have vastly more knowledge of their field than do their clients. People and other businesses need to be able to trust that the people they hire are not disclosing things that they want or need to know. Breaching this trust may hurt the provider of the service, but the relative scarcity of these professionals makes it difficult for them to even get caught.

    A few years ago, I worked as a pharmacy technician at Walgreens. It was here that I saw how the monopolization of knowledge in the medical field was a serious problem. So many doctors recommend expensive brand name medication for their patients (drug companies often build relationships with doctors so more people are prescribed their drug), neglecting to tell them about available generic meds that would do the same things or recommending against it. Most of these patients were elderly, living on fixed income, and trusted their doctors too much to question them. Therefore people were grossly overpaying for medication. Many times, people tried to make a month’s worth of pills last for two or three, and others simply left their drugs at the pharmacy because they could not afford them. The doctors, because of the benefits they received by endorsing the drug (money, samples, relationships with major drug companies) were hurting their patients by withholding information from them.

    I won’t try to argue that withholding the information of the child’s birth is as damaging to somebody’s life as withholding drug information, but the underlying principle is the same – we need to be careful about monopolization of knowledge, not endorse it. I happen to believe that a woman should have the right to know what the gender is of the fetus that is living inside her for 9 months. What gives doctors the right to withhold that information? What gives the government the right to regulate a woman’s knowledge of her own body? This isn’t a CIA mission where the knowledge can get into the wrong hands. In developed societies, nobody is harmed by knowing what sex their child is. As for the argument that doctors could be wrong, that’s just a risk that people who chose to find out the sex of their baby should be notified of before being told.

    My argument only works for places where people are not obsessed with having boys. Professor LaVaque-Manty mentions in his post that people of some of the European countries where the information concealing legislation may be passed don’t fall under that category. The issue of parents deciding to abort girls is disturbing to say the least, but there isn’t an easy response to the issue. I don’t believe that giving the government the power to conceal personal information is right, and who’s to say that just because people have less abortions, the culture will be more accepting of girls – ever since ancient times infanticide of female babies has persisted, and there is not much reason to think that it would not persist in cultures that are willing to abort a fetus just because of its gender. The issue here does not have to do with knowing the sex of the baby before birth. It has to due with the development of the culture itself. Why is it that the society is obsessed with male children. Is the government imposing a one-child rule like China (and if so, why do the parents prefer to have a boy?)? Is the society mainly agricultural and therefore needs more men to work farms? Can girls only get married if their parents offer a significant dowry? Is having girls considered to be embarrassing? The things that should be investigated further are cultural and don’t really concern medicine. I can’t really offer solutions to these societal problems, but I do know that allowing further unnecessary monopolization of knowledge by professionals (and the government) is not the answer. Now that I’ve dismissed an idea without really providing any kind of alternative to solving the problem, I feel like a true politician. I think I’ll just stop while I’m ahead.

  22. matthewlocascio Says:

    This is a very interesting argument looking at the bigger picture. Should we, as people, have access to all possible information, or should there be things that are limited to us?
    It addresses the “need to know” question in terms of how much is “need to know”? That question must be answered on a personal level, so creating a common societal explanation for what constitutes as “need to know” becomes very difficult and even blends into many types of freedoms.

    This article reflects upon the topic of silencing opinions. A “need to know” basis differs for everyone, and even can be situational, but in cases like this with exposing the gender of the child to the parents, a general answer can’t and should not be made. Telling parents who want to know that it is not ethically and morally acceptable to reveal this information goes against the values and interests of many people. On the other hand, revealing the sex of the baby before birth can be seen by some as a potentially harmful act towards the baby. The original post explains how many people plan on having a child of one sex, and then the tests were incorrect and the parents now have a boy when expecting a girl, or vice versa. Some parents may choose to abort the baby based on learning what the sex is. Does this go against ethical values? Other parents may indirectly and unconsciously mistreat the baby. If you have your heart set on having a baby girl and you have boy, for some parents there is a sense of disappointment. For all of childhood the parents may be justifying their desire for the other sex by seeing more wrongdoings or pointing out the negative aspects of having a boy or a girl, instead of seeing the beauty and purity in what they created.

    I guess what I am trying to say is there is no correct answer to this type of question. Looking more to the political theory aspect of how much information should be revealed, I believe in the statement, “If we can, we should,” unless it harms another individual. We should have access to all possible information as long as it will not lead to the mistreatment of another being. Using this theory to address this specific topic shows why it is so hard to define this fine line: who determines if someone will be hurt by revealing information. In matters of security it is quite obvious, but trying to guess if the parents will love the child regardless of sex or if they may abort is nearly impossible.

  23. mbernstein7 Says:

    The moral question being raised in this post is whether or not parents have the right to access the information that is available to them before the birth of their child. Unfortunately, there have been cases of selective abortion, which has led to the European Council’s recommendation that parents should not be allowed to know the sex of their child before birth.

    Although there are many moral questions at hand with this case, the main question is this: Is information that is readily available to parents be withheld from them? The answer is no; parents have the right to know, on a case by case basis, what the sex of their child is. While there are some psychotic people in this world who would even think of selectively aborting a child based on their sex, the belief in a good sense of human nature should override and outweigh the small contingent of the population that would think of aborting based on sex.

    This is a crucial political theory question, as the government is attempting to control information that is available to all people. If this information was to be withheld, that would be a violation of human rights. If this policy was to be enacted in Europe, who’s to say that this kind of policy might trickle down to the United States? If that were the case, this would be a direct violation of a citizens right to know all information that is available to them. Despite the limited number of inhumane people in this world, the minority of these people should not restrict the rest of the world from knowing whether they are expecting an Alexandra or an Alexander.

  24. Brian Robinson Says:

    This argument touches many different issues; in terms of the parents, should they have access to information about their own child? In my opinion, parents should absolutely be able to find out the sex of their unborn child. It is their child and no one else’s, which entitles them to make their own decisions about what they want to do or discover about their baby. It would be unjust to outlaw this in 47 different countries or even one country for that matter. This would be simply denying citizens information about themselves which is beginning to sound dangerously close to a dictatorship or tyranny. It would be more important to focus the governments time and effort to enforcing stricter gun or drug control rather than trying to stop people from having ultra sounds while pregnant.

    People should not be restricted or denied any information about themselves or their family; the simple discovery of the sex of their baby can not hurt anyone and would not create any additional problems. How can you deny someone to learn something about what is inside their own body? It would be immoral to restrict information like this from any persons who desires to learn the very information. The more the government tries to restrict or control the natural flow of information, the closer the society gets to being completely controlled by the government and the less rights citizens have.

    Any person in support of restricting the sex of a baby to their parent is also in support of restricting news and information about anything else to citizens that could be deemed “harmful”. This country was created on free will and access to information and the rest of the developed world is following in the United States’ footsteps yet arguments like this, would set any country back years in terms of natural rights.

  25. brianfrankel Says:

    We live in the age of information. At the fingertips of nearly the entire developed and developing world lies the Internet. Streamlined information is available to most educated citizenry throughout the world (except in extreme cases, such as China, in which some information is blocked). As this information age continues to take hold, it becomes less and less likely that information can be withheld from the population. People have the right to access all the information available to them. Incredibly, this will soon encompass all information.

    In respect to the decision to not allow parents to know the sex of their child, I find that this is both unreasonable and unjust. The problem here does not lie with knowing the sex of the child. The problem is that in certain European countries–those of the former Eastern Bloc–there remains too many incentives for parents to have male children instead of female children. Europe should be addressing these issues of economic disparity and hardship, rather than inhibiting all European citizens from their basic right to use technology and the information consequently provided.

  26. Jack Says:

    I feel that parents have an absolute right to know the gender of their baby prior to birth and that the European Council should not intervene and disallow it, nor should the countries themselves. As mentioned in the initial blog, it can be an enormous time saver as parents can ready the nursery if they want the room to be gender specific. This could allow the parents to spend more time with their child and hopefully to become better parents. It also takes a lot of stress of the mother before going into labor because she can pre-determine the baby’s name.

    The opposing argument is that the discovery of the baby’s gender could result in the parent’s decision to have a sex-selective abortion. This could also create a society with a significantly higher percentage of one sex over the other and perhaps create a noticeable minority. It would also be a shame to see more abortions simply because adults wanted a boy over a girl or vice versa. This opinion, I should explain, is coming from an individual that is pro-choice and believes that women should have the option of abortion for whatever reason they have. A decision based on gender would be a horrid reason, in my opinion, to have an abortion. But, who would be the person to decide what an adequate reason to have an abortion would be? I think it’s safe to say that the subject of abortion would be better left as a procedural process versus a substantive one.

    That being said, I feel as though I should respond to the blog’s final question as to what types of information a member of society should be permitted to hear and what types they should not. Primarily, anything that directly affects an individual creates grounds for that person to be told. This can be something as simple as learning their child’s gender before the baby is born. But what should also be included and many times is not, is a matter of public safety. If there have been a relatively high number of robberies in a specific area, I feel that it is very necessary for the people to know. The only occasions that would not require information to be passed to a person in possible danger would be news such as the possible reason they are being evacuated from an area. If everyone was told, the whole area could become chaos and the overall purpose of the evacuation would be sacrificed.

  27. aecorwin Says:

    I believe that the government should not have a role in a decision of this nature. The decision to find out the sex of an unborn baby should be up to the parents of this baby. It is not a requirement that any mother-to-be getting an ultrasound must be told the sex of her baby, it is merely an option. I, personally, would not wish to know whether my baby is a boy or a girl before he/she is born, but I see no reason why this should be illegal. Socrates makes it clear that it is impossible for anyone but the people themselves to decide what is best for them, and so the government has no right to restrict anyone from this sort of information. It does not harm anyone else if the sex of the baby is revealed.
    It can be argued, as stated above, that gender-specific abortions could be a result of knowing the sex of the baby before hand, however this would prove to be very difficult. You must be about 18-20 weeks along in your pregnancy to be at a point where you can determine the sex through an ultra sound, but you must be still well within the first trimester to preform a safe abortion, and most places will not provide an abortion after week 20 (give or take a few weeks.) I am not saying it doesn’t happen after, or that there aren’t people who would still be willing to have an abortion in order to have the child of their preferred gender, but I will state that the safety risks enormously increase by the time you are able to determine the gender.
    If determining the sex of a baby before it is born would harm another individual or the mother, I would fully be in support of making it illegal. However, I see no clear risk to any other individual if a mother wants to know what color to paint her nursery or which chapters of the baby name books to begin reading.

  28. dannilevin9492 Says:

    It seems as if choosing whether or not those having babies should know the sex of their child is very much reflective of the type of country one lives in. Therefore, in reality it should be up to the country whether or not citizens can know sex of their unborn child. Though it is not the case for all countries, the democratic views on this policy should be seen as the best theory. Democracy provides a self-governing society in which the people rule. As a result, people often choose their own destiny and therefore have the ability to freely speak and act, as long as it is done so reasonably. With this freedom comes the opportunity to know the sex of an unborn child because it is up to the parents whether or not to use this information freely. For instance, with this knowledge parents are more able to shop and prepare for the sex of their child. If you ask me, I believe that something so “unimportant” (and by unimportant I mean it very loosely because to some knowing the sex of their child is very important however it is not relative to other political issues) should be up to the people individually. If the government is able to control such a personal decision not only does it break the law but it shows just how controlling the government can be of its citizens.

  29. mfriedlander92 Says:

    I personally believe that the gender of one’s baby is personal information. The government has no right to restrict you from knowing a fact about your own child. I don’t think they have the right to step in and say “no, you are not allowed to know the sex of the child that is growing inside your stomach because we don’t know how you will treat this information.” It is their right to know this knowledge about their child. This information can do many things for the family expecting; it can allow them to start picking out names, they can start prepping the house for their newborn, and they can just start to get so excited about having a certain sex child. This information can put the family at ease.

    With technology that is so advanced these days, it seems like a shame to waste it and restrict people from using it to the full potential. Also sometimes knowing the sex of the child can be very useful for the health of the newborn. In some cases, families may have a disease in their genes that is predominantly in men of their family. I would assume that parents would like their child’s health to be checked out as soon as possible to see if the child will be a carrier of the gene or show signs. Also, in cases boys are more likely to have gene deficiencies, like cerebral palsy or down-syndrome. Technology is so advanced that there are ways to check on the children and see if any of these signs are present. Also, as much as I don’t think this is correct, there is the issue of gene therapy, where families alter the genes of their unborn child. I know this is a big moral debate right now, but it is another reason to be allowed to know the gender of your child. If you were having a girl and you knew that all women in your family carry a specific gene for cystic fibrosis, you might want to check their genome and fix their genes per-say. I, personally, would not do this, but I think that people should have the right to because it is their own child.

    That being said, I think that the government has no right to step in and tell a family that they are not allowed to know information about their own child. Even if the government is trying to protect children from sex-selective abortions, I don’t think they can’t deny a family this information. If a certain area is having so many problems with sex-selective abortions then the government should work with these specific areas and work on regulations for abortions, not deny others of this personal and life-changing information.

  30. blakesimons Says:

    Preventing people from knowing the sex of their babies before birth is a direct violation of human rights, in my opinion. Withholding available technology from citizens puts a blockade on the future technological development of the nation in which these citizens live. Telling citizens that they are not able to access available technology, in theory, tells them that the nation does not support advancing. Moreover, holding the right from these humans to know the sex of their babies is a clear violation of rights. The parents of the child deserve, individually, the right to choose if they do or do not want to know the sex of their child before birth.

    In reference to the argument made by the European Council, I find it wholly unjust to impose such a law that restricts citizens this right. One could argue for the ruling, stating that selective abortion has caused such an issue in countries in the former Soviet Union that it could significantly harm the future of their nations; however, if the success of the future of these nations is the issue, then it must be realized that this success will only be found by granting citizens the rights they deserve. These citizens have the right to access information about their lives, and the European Council must be willing to recognize this.

  31. remiforster Says:

    I believe that the government should not be involved in this topic at all. Knowing the sex of your unborn child is a decision that parents should be able to make themselves. I completely agree with the previous comment (blakesimons) that withholding this type of information when it is available is a violation of human rights. If the reason that the European Council’s equal opportunity committee is involved is because of selective abortion then that is a completely separate issue. That brings into play pro-choice and pro-life. If these European countries are having such a major issue with the high selective abortion rates then they need to re-look at their abortion policies, not take away the option of finding out the sex of your child.

    In general, I believe that people should have access to all of the available information. After having people find out the sex of their babies for years, this cannot simply just be taken away, which is why I think that this widespread policy among 47 states would not be able to be easily reinforced. People now know it is an option and will find a way to find out the information if they really want to know. This is not something that the government should even consider being involved with. This is a personal matter and taking away this option is a violation of human rights.

    This topic, however, brings up very interesting questions. It is not only about whether parents should be able to find out the sex of their unborn child but it also questions whether citizens should have access to all available information. Is the government going too far in trying to control this aspect in people’s life? Is this a violation of human rights? In this day in age, people have come to expect immediate answers to their questions. With the technology available, we are able to do this in most cases and it is not fair to suddenly take this away.

  32. sbsmoler92692 Says:

    I personally am extremely against this potential law enforcement. While all 47 countries differ across the board, I feel the government’s ruling would infringe upon the citizens’ rights if it were to enable such a law that prevented parents from finding out the sex of their child before birth. If they must make this a rule, I really feel that not all 47 countries should be equally subjected to this ruling. Though they have had problems recently with female abortions before birth, a possible solution to this problem would be to enable the law only where it was becoming a serious issue.
    On the broader spectrum, this posed the question for readers to think about what various types of information people should have access to. Within a democratic society, citizens hold both the freedom of speech and press, thereby having access to many outlets of knowledge. I feel that the government would shift to a more oppressive type of rule if this law was to be enacted. People should have the right to access information, especially information that is relevant to them, such as the sex of their unborn child.
    However, just because you can have the information, doesn’t necessarily mean that you should be allowed the information or want to know the information. You should have the right to choose whether you want to learn the sex of your child. Nobody can tell you want you can and cannot do, especially if they can easily find out the information, (the example here is sex of your child). It is really a sticky situation and puzzling, indeed, because our society is so modern. Given the fact that society and the world today is mainly governed in a democratic fashion, makes this interesting. Many states are liberal with their citizens and their freedoms to speech, however, issues such as these arise and governments become torn. I feel that giving people the option to seek the information presented to them, is the morally right thing. However, what those people choose to do with the information, such as knowing the sex of their child during pregnancy, becomes up to them and more of an ethical issue than anything else.

  33. emmaknev Says:

    While scrolling through the blog, this topic immediately caught my attention. What an interesting debacle! To jump right into the discussion, I think that it would be unjust to assume that only former soviet union countries would take advantage of the information that ultrasounds provide. I understand that it is more likely that former soviet countries do so, basically because boys are considered “superior” to girls (which my feminist side finds quite offensive) but also because in many cases boys have better rights than girls do. However, coming from a former soviet country myself – I’m Bulgarian and proud of it – I’d have to say that this is not the case there. In Bulgaria specifically, men and women have equal rights. While there are still remnants of the traditional idea that women are in charge of cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the kids, it is not uncommon for women to have a higher education than men, and pursue successful careers. So, to answer your question, I feel that each country should decide for itself whether or not allowing parents to know the sex of their baby is in the nation’s best interest. I do not doubt that whilst considering this idea many nations will question whether this information would sway their future populations in an uneven distribution of males and females. There are many factors to consider with such a topic, and applying such a law to all 47 European countries would fail to accommodate each country’s individual position in regards to this technology. Because European countries vary so widely in regards to how conservative or liberal they are, it would seem unwise to believe that imposing this law would be accepted by all 47 nations without dispute. If anything, I would think that many European nations would find this distasteful.

    On another note, I am a big believer in utilizing all available information in order to make the best decision possible in any given situation. This being said, I must say that keeping parents on a “need to know” basis concerning their baby’s is an awful idea. Considering that the government would be the determining factor of what parents do or do not need to know, I can’t imagine what else the government might deem unworthy of the parents’ attention. If I were a parent in this situation, I would want to know everything and anything concerning my future child – sex included. I understand that some people might take advantage of this information, but that should be considered within their own rights. Personally, I would not take well to being told that my baby’s information is on a “need to know basis” because as the parent, I would claim that I need to know. Perhaps, there are things that the government keeps private for the greater good, however, in terms of parental rights, relinquishing a parent’s right to know the sex of their baby is a violation of human rights. The government has no business in this area, and shouldn’t mess with anxious expectant mothers. I can only imagine the repercussions that would follow if such a law were to be enacted in the 47 European states.

  34. jpstern Says:

    A “need to know basis”, however frustrating it may be to some people is crucial for almost everything its applied too. In the case of national security, a citizen, such as myself, wants to know everything that is going on overseas or in the government out of curiosity. However, if I were to know everything that is going on then i’d be a target of countless terrorist organizations that want to know what I know. Information that the government deems classified that is only accessible to people who have been screened to ensure that they aren’t going to leak the information to whoever seeks it. This gives our country peace of mind knowing that the government isn’t handing out our secrets to anyone who asks.

    On another note, the idea of making it illegal for a parent to know information about their unborn children is absurd. Even though the sex of the baby might not end up what you are told 100 percent of the time, the knowledge allows parents adequate time to prepare for the huge burden of having a child. Besides knowing the gender of the child, the technician performing the ultrasound may notice something that is life-threatening to the mother or child. An incorrectly positioned fetus can cause a miscarriage and the ultrasound is a crucial instrument to detect and fix the problem. Various other medical problems can be noticed and corrected using this tool as well.

    As technology advances, taking advantage of new breakthroughs and tools is crucial to mankind. Making new advances illegal to use would lower the life expectancy of the human race and could ultimately kill us off. For example, if we didn’t use science and technology to formulate vaccines for the epidemics that have plagued out society over the years then we wouldn’t be here and the children that we simply want to know the gender of would be the least of our concerns. Therefore, I believe that the thought of banning a parents right to use ultrasound to learn about their unborn child is absurd and would be terribly harmful to the progression of society.

  35. kaitlinlapka Says:

    This topic reminds me of my discussion sections most recent conversation about our short essay due soon. We spoke about the BART story and clarified much of what occured. We also thought about Mill and many of his ideas and principles. Then, putting our own opinions to the side along with our ideas on what was lawful or not, we asked the basic question of the essay “Can Mill’s arguements be used to evaluate what happened?” One idea was that perhaps Mill’s arguements could not be used at all. Why? What would Mill have to say about BART shutting down cell phone service? Absolutely nothing- he lived in a completely different time period. So my comparison comes in: What could MIll say about this issue in Europe of limiting knowledge and the truth from the expecting parents? There was no technology to tell the sex of preborn babies in Mill’s day; It is a new issue that we are dealing with. Perhaps we are even forced to decide what is right without any historical parallels to help us. So what is the clear answer?

    In my personal opinion (and many on this blog) , it wrong to prevent all people from knowing the sex of their baby should they wish to. Even if there is one region in Europe that might be using this technology negatively, is restricting all of Europe benefitting the greatest number of people? It’s difficult to say, however, I still do not like the idea of withholding the truth from everyone. What if, for example, the idea of restricting decision was applied to women who were raped? While I’m not wishing to go into a whole pro-choice/pro-life debate, it is a fact many women who have been raped do want an abortion. What if suddenly, the government stated that this was just as offensive as the region in Europe that aborted girls and soon restricted women the right to have an abortion? I realize that this is a bit extreme, but I feel that both ideas are simply forcing people to be unaware, and Mill’s said that everyone should be allowed to know and say what they want. I think that Mill’s principles do apply. As a whole, we need to be allowed to say and do wrong things, like perhaps the people in the former Soviet Union, to receive better benefit for what is right. The government needs to be open and give the choice to the people to decide what course of action is best. By “silencing opinions” of the people (telling them they are not allowed to know the sex of their baby until birth), the “human race is being robbed” of truth, knowledge, and decision.

    While I think this entire topic is wrong and should not be allowed, and also tried to apply Mill’s theories to this topic, I still go back to what I said earlier. There is also a debate to Mill’s ideas not applying, because he did not have this situation in his lifetime. However, I would refute that Mill didn’t just write for his times, he wrote from human instincts, and that if we think him still important to learn today, then his basical human nature/law principles can still be applied today.

  36. madison kraus Says:

    After reading this post and the comments that follow, I couldn’t help but immediately question why this is an issue at all. Knowing the gender of a future child should be a personal choice and right. We have new technology for a reason, and to block the use of this technology because some people might abuse it is illogical and backwards.
    If we don’t allow one technology because it could be used for undesirable reasons, we’d have to examine many innovations of our modern society. Should we block access to the Internet because people use it inappropriately? Should we forbid the use of cell phones because they can be used to organize illegal activities? How about getting rid of automobiles because people drive irresponsibly? If we examine technology with a pessimistic eye, nearly every aspect of society can be used to cause harm to others. Just because there is a potential for negative outcomes, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be able to use technological advances to our advantage. We cannot halt the progress of modern science because we are afraid that a small minority of citizens won’t use it in a way that the government deems appropriate.
    For some parents and families, knowing the sex of their baby is an important step in mentally preparing for his or her arrival. New parents are anxious and nervous and knowing the sex of a baby provides information that can eliminate one of the many worries in their lives. Since technology exists that can bring positive information to parents who will value it, it should be available to be accessed by everyone. There will always be individuals who use information and technology for undesirable purposes, but those who have good intentions shouldn’t be penalized because of this.

  37. jillburnette9 Says:

    As a few others have already stated I believe that the government should have no say at all in whether or not the parents decide to know the gender of their unborn child. Having a child is a personal event between the couple and the government really has no reason to interfere in the matter. Seeing that this type of technology has been used for quite some time now, taking it away would infringe on personal rights that have been withstanding for a while.

    I believe that if the situation were different (let’s say that finding out the gender of the child could possibly harm it or the mother) then there would be more of a reason to revoke the right. But since harm is being done to either party, and that finding out the gender of a child is merely for the pleasure of the expecting parents, then why should the government even care enough to want to take that away?

    When it comes to the government’s role, personal rights are always a heated topic. People are always concerned with having the government overstep their boundaries, and I feel like this would definitely be one of those moments. If it is decided that a parents cannot know what gender their unborn child will be, then what could be next? The government telling the parents what to name their child, or how to raise it?

  38. jefiore Says:

    When it comes to a problem in 1/47 member states is it necessary to inflict a law which affects the 46 not involved as well? I would argue that a law placed on all 47 states
    in response to activity in just one of them is unnecessary. Why can’t the law be placed on just the one? What did the other 46 countries do to deserve such restrictions?

    More importantly I would argue that the restriction on knowledge of the sex of your baby, no matter if it was placed on one or all of the 47 member states is erroneous. The sex of your baby before birth is information that should be accessible to people everywhere.

    I believe that the more knowledge people have access to, the more developed our world can become and there are very few instances when any knowledge should be withheld from the people. In regards to the situation presented, the knowledge of your baby’s sex prior to birth should not be withheld. This is information which affects a small personal group of people. It is not threatening to the government if a family finds out the sex of their baby prior to birth; it is not going to leak a military plan, threaten the economy or harm any group of people. It is only the decision of the family and that information should be available to them.

    Some might argue that with some families deciding for or against an abortion depending on the sex of the baby there is a threat to the natural balance of women and men which could potentially harm the country. Therefore one may argue that there is a basis for the government to limit the families access to knowledge. This I disagree with; if it has previously been a regular practice why is this imbalance not already an issue. Furthermore this practice has been occurring in just one out of 47 member states so more than likely there is a good number of births outside of this one state countering the births of more boys. Without legitimate proof of any threat to society the government should not be able to withhold any information from the people.

    I believe the more knowledge available to people the better the society. Unless there is legitimate proof that harm to any group or the government may result from shared knowledge, such as a military strategy, information should always be accessible to the people so that our world may continue to learn and progress.

  39. amgille Says:

    My one question after reading this was not what would happen by refusing to allow parents to know the sex of their child before birth, but what would happen to the child of those parents who did not desire a male or female child? This may seem like a backward way of looking at the issue at hand, but I question whether this law would lead to even more harmful effects on society rather than the occurrence of selective abortion in many countries. In the past, it has been the fact of countries, such as China, to abandon their female children or place them for adoption as they were not the sex that they had desired as the females could not carry on the family name. Wouldn’t the increase in abandoned children and the number of children in adoption agencies result in many potentially worse situations in society itself (ex. increased taxes, death rates, etc.)? I do believe it is the parents’ right to know the sex of their child, not only because it does allow them to better prepare for the coming of it as previously mentioned, but they are strictly in a “need to know” basis as they are the sole reasons for the child’s existence in society.

    Furthermore, couldn’t the definition of “need to know” in a government change within a time frame? Who exactly determines what is necessary to know in society? I understand if for political stability, some things are kept hidden from inhabitants, as much as I hate this fact. As a citizen, I would love to know everything occurring in our government, but I am realistic about the things that are in our best interests to know. If something doesn’t prove a threat to society, it should be allowed to be known in the public spectrum. I would like to push the idea, in relation to the example, that knowing the sex of a baby doesn’t in fact harm society, but might improve society from unforeseen problems in the future. These steps should be taken into consideration when determining whether an action is truly necessary for government involvement.

  40. njayd Says:

    Any time that 47 different countries have to adhere to a single decision issues will arise. It is difficult for a large group of countries ranging from Portugal to Slovakia to agree on a universally binding decision of any caliber. Things get even stickier when the European Council meddles with what expecting parents can or cannot do regarding their baby on the way. Whether it’s a couples’ very first child or their fifth, they probably are not looking for a large council of politicians to tell them what parental rights they have or lack regarding their child’s gender. How can the decision be made? Even if the EC follows a utilitarianism theory and does what is best for the greatest amount of people, there still may be a pissed off minority of parents picketing outside the EC’s Brussels’ headquarters. If the desire of the EC were to make as many of its members happy than the best decision would be to not restrict parents from discovering their baby’s gender before birth. This way those that want to know whether it’s a boy or girl can, and those who want to be surprised by the gender can as well (Without restrictions everyone wins!). However I do realize it’s never that simple. The fact that some people are abusing the privileges of ultrasound is putting lives at risk…and basically ruining it for everyone else. Now I realize that I used the term “privilege” in the previous sentence, but actually I may be false because I believe that the real question is whether knowing a child’s gender before birth is a right or a privilege.

  41. Achin Jain Says:

    The “Need to Know” problem in terms of knowing the sex of the unborn child is often affected by varied cultures across the globe. In the USA ,as mentioned in the post, people might want to know the sex of the child for reasons such as: thinking about names or wanting to decide whether to color the nursery girly pink or manly blue, while in other countries like India it is a more serious issue than that. Gender discrimination, specifically discrimination against girls is very much prevalent and alive in India. A common wisdom in India for many years has been preference for sons while discrimination against girls. This ideology complemented by technological innovations such as ultrasound, have led to implications such as skewed sex ratios, female foeticide and high child mortality rates in girls. For over 100 years, there is a marked gap between number of boys and girls, men and women.
    This ideology is motivated by social, economical, religious and emotional factors that favors males and make females less desirable. In India, when expecting a child, parents often expect sons and not daughters because the son will provide them financial and emotional support in their old age where as daughters will get married away from home and drain their parents wealth through dowries. Sons are often expected to lead the family whereas managing the households is considered a primary and the only task of a daughter.

    “Need to Know” more can sometime bring questions as to why are we not content with the information we have? Is our behavior for knowing more information influenced by economic, social and religious factors? Is this too much of a freedom to exercise? Can this actually impair society?

    In conclusion, I feel that this freedom affects societies and cultures positively and negatively (in the case of USA and India). The practice of knowing a sex of a child should be heavily regulated and controlled by governments in countries where the notion of gender discrimination exists.

  42. Skye Says:

    I don’t think that it’s government’s place to tell a parent whether or not they can know their child’s sex before birth. People have the right to know what sex their baby will be, they want to prepare for it. Nowadays, if you don’t prepare for a baby ahead of time, you’re considered crazy. People want to have the nursery set up, they want to have the name picked out, and they can’t do that if the government takes away the ability to know the child’s sex beforehand. I think that if you started dictating things like this, it becomes a violation of basic human rights. Additionally, if we can’t come to a majority opinion decision on any laws regarding abortion, do you really think that we could come up with one regarding finding out a child’s sex before birth? It’s one of those issues that will always have too much pluralism to come to a conclusion.

    I think that the European Council is completely in the wrong, but I don’t think that this is the main point of the blog post. I think that what the author is trying to get at (and I may be completely wrong on this) is that if it’s this easy to decide something like this for people, how many steps away are we from them deciding bigger issues (health care, etc) for us? What happens then? Pluralism may be preventing us from coming to conclusions that could be solving this issues, and if we don’t come to a conclusion, what else could be decided for us?

  43. kristinamacek Says:

    I am going to take a more drastic stance on this issue than the original post may call for. Not only do I believe that not allowing a woman who is willing to pay to discover the gender of the sex of her unborn child a complete mockery of women’s rights, but I also believe that if a woman so choses that she is completely within her rights to have an abortion for whatever reason she deems appropriate. If a woman wants to only have a child of a certain sex, she should be able to abort a child of the opposite sex. Would I personally do this? Not at all. However, I have no interest in pushing my own idea of what makes an abortion ethical or not on another woman. Every woman has the right to what happens with her own body, including what children she chooses to carry to full term or not.

    However, in order to circumvent this whole messy issue of ethical vs. unethical abortions, if you believe an ethical abortion even exists that is, I believe that women who are “picky” about what their future child’s sex should be may want to consider In-vitro Fertilization. This would allow a woman to have full control over the future sex of her children. I am aware that this is a pricey procedure and that it is not plausible for women living in third world countries, it is, however, very plausible for wealthy women. Thus, if you can afford a procedure that would prevent any unnecessary abortions or disappointments, I am in full support of it.

  44. antuck Says:

    It’s interesting to see the moral issues that arise from developing technology. The issue of learning about a child before it’s birth, in particular, will only become more complex over time. What happens when genetic tests show that a child is likely to be gay, and the parent’s want to abort?

    But as Professor Lavaque-Manty said, the real issue is not the case of ultrasounds, but deciding what knowledge citizens should be able to access. Should there be limits to what they can know? Does the government have the right to place limits on knowledge?

    Here’s a possible way to go about solving such problems: Does it harm the citizens, or does it help them?

    Not to ignore the complexity of the issue, but this question seems to me to be the simplest and most intuitive way to get to the bottom of issues of knowledge. In fact, I question whether the issue of a government limiting the knowledge of its citizens is even an issue at all. In the ultrasound debate, for example, I think that what we are really concerned with is the *consequences* of either allowing or disallowing ultrasounds. If using ultrasounds causes all hell to break loose, people will want to ban them. If using ultrasounds makes the process of having a baby easier or more pleasant, people will want them legalized. The consequences of having ultrasounds, not the ethics of the government’s role in epistemology, are what are being disputed.

    After all, everyone (except, perhaps, Julian Assange), whether they realize it or not, agrees that the government should at least sometimes limit knowledge. That’s why we have secret military files. That’s why we have sting operations. The government needs to use secrecy to protect its constituents sometimes, and that’s just part of living in a safe and happy society. We sacrifice certain rights and certain knowledge in return for a much better existence. We disagree on to what extent this should occur, but we do not disagree on this premise as a whole (aside from a few Somalian war lords, I guess).

    So, given that we all acknowledge the government should at least some of the time interfere with our rights, issues like the ultrasound case are not about political theory at all. They are about sociology. Will ultrasound usage lead to more abortion? Is abortion even harmful to a society? Will it create a mixed female-male ratio? Will such a ratio be harmful to society? Will using ultrasounds help parents plan? In short, will ultrasounds harm or help citizens?

    In class a few days ago, Professor LM said that we should make sure we respond to the broader political theories presented in his blog posts, not the specific case studies he uses as examples (e.g., the real topic is the government’s role in limiting knowledge, not the use of ultrasounds). However, I have to disagree on even this basic assertion. We all already agree that the government should limit knowledge sometimes; the individual cases are what matter. And they are decided by the predicted consequences of a ruling, not the government’s role in doing so.

    In this sense, I have to disagree with the underlying premise upon which Professor LM poses his question: we should ignore any implications on political theory this issue presents (or rather, seems to present), and dive straight into debating the issue itself.

  45. adamstillman2011 Says:

    I absolutely think that parents should have the opportunity to know the sex of their child. While me and my future wife might want the sex of our child to be a surprise, it is not by business to decide what is best of another family. I certainly do not think that the choice of whether or not you have the opportunity to know your child’s sex is an issue of politics or government.

    I think that this issue is in the same vein as abortion. In my opinion abortion is a medical issue, and should be decided on between a woman and her doctor, not politicians in Washington. The decision whether or not to have an abortion has a direct affect on the woman who is having the procedure; therefore, she should be the one who decides whether or not to have one done. Like abortion, whether or not a parent is able to know the sex of their child is not an issue that needs to be decided by government.

    I also think you can look at this issue through a utilitarian point of view. I think that if a family wants to know the sex of their child, it promotes the greater good to tell them. Knowing the sex of a child can give the family joy as the anxiously prepare for the arrival of their son or daughter, preventing them from obtaining this knowledge, in my opinion, does no good for the family. In addition, the individuals who are making the prevention laws do not individually benefit from preventing the parents from knowing the sex. Finding out the sex of your child is an issue to be decided by a family around a dinner table; not by a parliament or congress.

  46. srbarron Says:

    I don’t think this is an issue for the government to decide nor to be involved in. As a believer in pro-choice and allowing the parents to make the decision about abortions in general, I feel that knowing the sex of the baby is also a choice that only the parents can decide. However, I don’t believe that knowing the sex should influence anything besides the pre-birth purchases. If the family is in financial trouble, knowing the sex of the baby can allow them to purchase certain gender specific items at sale prices at earlier times. They can also prepare for ceremonies and family events that are specific to the baby’s sex.

    In countries like China, knowing the sex of the baby and allowing for an abortion or controlling the prevalence of a gender based on adoptions is causing turmoil. Since the Chinese have been restricting the amount of girls born and raised in the country, societal problems have arisen. In the past, if parents prematurely knew the sex of their child to be a female, they would abort the child or put it up for adoption with the one child limit rule. Sexual crimes are now taking place as men fight over the fewer numbers of females to reproduce with. In order to continue their family name, men are causing harm as they violate women forcing them to have children.

    This brings us to the issue of social roles and biological roles of each gender and the need to have an equal number of both in order for society to remain balanced. Each sex has their biological roles differences to continue to reproduce. The social roles of men and women are important too to keep natural routine. The social roles of women to be more motherly and the idea that men should be protective of their families have developed over time and are now almost necessary traits for family structure.

    Both genders contribute to society in different ways and are essential to this world. We therefore cannot and should not limit one or the other prematurely.

  47. Mason Bear Says:

    After stealthily avoiding several armed guards and using a pen to pick a lock James Bond flips through a heavy stack of papers stamped CONFIDENTIAL in bold, red letters scanning for a single piece of information…the sex of his unborn child. WHAT?! The idea seems ludicrous to those of us that have grown up in the United States for the entirety of our lives. In baby stores balloons scream, “It’s A Girl!” and the store is filled with blue and pink clothes as a gender sorting tool. The topic of baby gender raises important questions about the government’s role in their citizen’s access to information.

    People always want to break the rules. Look at prohibition in the 1920’s and early 1930’s, or perhaps a more relevant issue to the topic at hand: illegal abortion. Leaving personal beliefs behind it is a fact that abortions occur, often in more dangerous ways, whether the law permits them or not. So, if the European Council banned ultrasounds to determine the sex of a baby what would be the outcome? I’m not a fortune teller, but I assume laws on ultrasound restrictions would create some. People would begin to make their living on falsehoods ($20 for a baby gender palm reading, magical pills to ensure a boy). In extreme cases some countries (that favor one sex) could experience a higher rate of abandoned children or infant fatalities. The list goes on and on.

    Even if the outcomes shed positive light on the topic, which they do not, I still believe that the government should let parents make their own decisions about their own baby. The role of the government should be to protect their citizens, not invade their private life.The European Council hold the notion that their is a standard that could fit the wants and needs of every expecting couple, and there is…letting the parents make their own decision.

  48. njayd Says:

    Any time that 47 different countries have to adhere to a single decision, issues will arise. It is difficult for a large group of countries ranging from Portugal to Slovakia to agree on a universally binding decision of any caliber. Things get even stickier when the European Council meddles with what expecting parents can or cannot do regarding their baby on the way. Whether it’s a couples’ very first child or their fifth, they probably are not looking for a large council of politicians to tell them what parental rights they have or do not have regarding knowing their child’s gender. How can the decision be made? Even if the EC follows a utilitarianism theory and does what is best for the greatest amount of people, there still may be a pissed off minority of parents picketing outside the EC’s Brussels’ headquarters. If the desire of the EC were to make as many of its members happy than the best decision would be to not restrict parents from discovering their baby’s gender before birth. This way those that want to know whether it’s a boy or girl can, and those who want to be surprised by the gender can as well (Without restrictions everyone wins!).
    However I do realize it’s never that simple. The fact that some people are abusing the privileges of ultrasound is putting lives at risk…and basically ruining it for everyone else. Now I did use the term “privilege” in the previous sentence, but actually I believe that the real question is whether knowing a child’s gender before birth is a right or a privilege? Privilege, being something that is innately given to a person, where rights are something that a person must earn in order to obtain. If this happens to be a privilege then the EC should protect parents’ ability to view their unborn’s gender; however, if this situation is a right, than abusing the results of an ultrasound should be grounds for terminating parents’ access to ultrasounds. If parents were using gender as a reason behind getting an abortion than that would definitely be discriminating to the child. And then, as if there were not enough controversy on this topic, the debate of pro-life and pro-choice get thrown into the mix. At whatt point does a baby in fact become a baby? And when does this ‘baby’ get the rights (mainly the right of life) that other humans possess? I do not closely follow this debate and so I feel too uninformed to construct an argument either way, but there are definitely topics of controversy. As problems may continue to emerge, the EC certainly have their hands full.

  49. jordanwylie Says:

    Let me start off by saying I prefer not to share my political beliefs with other people. Sure, I love to watch the presidential debates and I read the news to keep up with current events, but I believe my opinions are my opinions. I grew up being told there are three things you do not make small-talk with: money, religion, and politics. I definitely have opinions, and strong ones at that, but what is to say my opinion is better than your opinion? Everyone is entitled to think what they want. With that being said, after reading this I am going to sound like the most feministic and antigovernment person on the planet.

    Governments have completely crossed the line even contemplating the idea of prohibiting couples from determining the sex of their child. I completely agree with danieltarockoff. It seems as though governments have run out of social issues to make controversial. I imagine a bunch of men sitting around a table, wearing expensive suits. One man says to the rest “So capital punishment, abortion, and gay rights are starting to bore me. What else can we throw at the public to divide them some more? Bill you’re wife is pregnant right? Do you know what your having yet?” Another random governmental official stands up “That’s it! You’re a genius! Let’s tell them they can no longer figure out the sex of their unborn child. It will drive them crazy! Mwahahahahahah”

    Yes, I completely understand that governmental officials are concerned with people aborting their child based on their gender. However, if this is what is really concerning the government then they need to focus on their abortion laws. Why punish the rest of the population who really just wants to learn the sex of their baby so they can prepare? What about the people are concerned that their unborn child may inherit a genetic disease that is more common in one gender over the other?

    Keeping people on this “need to know” basis is somewhat like “Big Brother is watching!” In my opinion this is a complete abuse of power. This also opens a whole new avenue for the black market. If people are desperate to know then they will find out. They will go to some creepy back room to learn of the sex.

    A pregnancy is usually a joyous time. It is also a personal experience. The only people that should be involved with a pregnancy is the woman and the man. There is no place for the government.

  50. zschmitt17 Says:

    While I was reading this article I could not think of any concrete reason that the parents should not be able to know the sex of the baby. It should all be about personal choice of the expecting parents. They can either choose to not know the sex right away and be surprised or know the sex so that they can start planning for their “little miracle”.

    In the article it brings forth the point that sometimes the ultrasounds are wrong. You could be expecting a boy, but oopps you get a girl instead. Or the baby could come out intersexed. I fail to see why the government is concerned about this. Hospitals and doctors offices should instead make it very clear that although the ultrasound says one thing that there is a chance that it could be wrong. That would relieve any chance to blame them for the unexpected.

    On a majority of tv shows and movies, when a couple gets pregnant they start to do their research. The most “crazed” couples can often finish the doctor’s sentences. The internet has a lot to do with this. Expecting parents research everything from what to eat to if they can still have sex. In all of this pre-birth studying the fact that ultrasounds have the chance to be incorrect must come up. I am a 19 year old male with no intention to have a baby anytime soon and I know that they could be read wrong.

    LIke I said before I see no reason why the government should care if parents know the sex of their unborn baby. It should be a personal choice, and a way to bond with the future family member. The government should focus more on the failing economy or the trouble overseas instead of trivial matters of our everyday lives.

  51. cchevat Says:

    In terms of the example presented about finding out the sex of a child, I agree with many of the other comments that this is personal information for the family and it should be their decision whether they want to know or not. While a family is a nuclear group there is also a wider group that need to be addressed. Countries may have rules on this issue because of the fact that in some countries the sex of a child could really affect that family’s future livelihood especially economically. In many societies boys are valued because they can perform labor and help bring in money for a family that is crucial to providing basic life necessities.

    Due to these factors, the World Bank’s 2012 World Development has released the statistic that nearly four million women are missing from the world’s population every year. The reasons for this differ from various harmful acts to just the fact that some women are not granted access to healthcare.

    With this information, people may be more opposed to limiting the amount of information people receive because it has the possibility of ending in a harmful result. At the same time, it is not anyone’s place to say what a family needs to do in order to keep themselves sustainable which is where most of the argument on this subject lies.

    In response to the European Council’s rule I do believe that each country needs to be able to assess what they do on their own. Instead of having completely different rules, there could possibly be sub-laws exercising the beliefs of both the European Council as well as the individual country.

    In terms of the question of how much information should be let out in the public, there really are strong pros and cons to each side. In an ideal world, all information would be available to the public and people would be able to access it if they wanted to or ignore it if they don’t. But with the more information that is let out, the more it creates tension when people have different opinions about what to do with that information. In that respect where there really is no right answer, the only way that seems plausible is to go by a case by case basis of which information to release. At the same time, who is able to decide what information is released? Even if an answer is never found to this very complicated question, people are becoming more capable of finding out information because of how globally connected we are especially with the internet. So maybe the new question instead of is information allowed to be accessed is Are we ready for the whole world to have an opinion on a certain piece of information concerning only a certain region or country?

  52. schoiidaho Says:

    Nowdays, the use of the ultrasound machine has become very commonplace in the United States and most of the world. I do understand that the parents have the right to find out the sex of their baby before birth. However, I support the European Council’s proposition that parents do not need to know the gender of the baby before he or she is born.
    A lot of the times, the ultrasound technology is utilized to initiate selective abortion by a lot of people. Abortion involves is taking an innocent life as well as jeopardizing the healthy well-being of the mother. Most importantly though, constant abuse of the ultrasound technology brings about severe social disruptions and problems. The situation that has been unfolding in China is a perfect example.
    In order to control the booming population, the Chinese government has implemented the one child policy throughout the country. Generally, in Asian cultures, boys are valued more highly than girls. Because of this mindset, the parents would usually go get an ultrasound check to determine the gender of their baby. If it turns out to be a female, a large number of families decide to abort the baby.
    Over the years, the number of males in China gradually surpassed that of the females, and nowdays, the ratio of the men greatly outnumber the women. It has been becoming harder and harder for Chinese men to get married. Because of this, it has become next to impossible for the poor and the mentally handicapped men to find a spouse, which has triggered another major social issue on top of what exists already.
    Numerous North Koreans flee their country to escape the tyrannical rule of Kim Jong Il, and most times crossing through China is the only way out. There are Chinese brokers who smuggle young North Korean women over, instilling lies and false hopes in them, only to sell them off to the poor Chinese men in rural areas looking for wives for mere sums of around 150 to 300 US dollars. The North Koreans, who risked their lives and sacrificed everything in hopes of a better future, are now stuck in a dead end and living a life that is most times worse than what they had back in North Korea. This is a very unjust action and currently a growing problem in China today.

  53. dkap7 Says:

    As the author stated, “The ultrasound is not perfect, and a small but non-trivial number of babies’ sex is misidentified in the ultrasound or the babies are ‘intersexed'”. This exact scenario occurred with my cousin, who after an ultrasound was performed was pronounced a boy. She came out a girl. Although, ultrasound is very effective, it is not perfect, proven by my cousin’s inconsistencies with ultrasound.

    Although ultrasound may not be 100% effective, laws should not prohibit parents from “the need to know”. Its falls under the freedoms afforded to each American. Countries like the United States and most European countries do not have problems with abortion based on gender. This being said, countries like China do have serious problems with gender related abortions. Societal practices put unequal praise over males as opposed to females. With new laws that only allow for a couple to have one child, parents are more and more eager to be part of “the need to know”. The benefits of having a son, to the citizens of china, outweigh that of a daughter to the point that many family’s either abort their child before birth, or abandon or kill the child once it is born. This conflict is a little more understandable in countries like China, but at the same point in time, what should be the premises for restricting people’s freedom. In my opinion, when abortion rates would skyrocket, this specific freedom that people are entitled too can be taken away. Lives are in jeopardy, and having a predominant population of males and only a few males, makes the repopulation stage in these countries very difficult. No situation including gender in countries that have such imbalances in gender equality would benefit from technology like ultrasound.

    Playing devils advocate to this previous argument, no matter whether parents in countries like China find out the sex of their child pre-birth or post birth, there is still a chance that the babies will be killed. If this were the case, it would be a lot less painful and more sane for an abortion to occur, rather than the murder of the child after the child was born. In this case, I would allow parents to be part of “the need to know”.

  54. eaaldrid6409 Says:

    Should the government prohibit parents from using the ultrasound to find out the sex of their babies? No. Should the government prohibit selective abortion? Yes. How can the government allow parents to use ultrasounds to reveal the sex of their babies, while preventing selective abortion? This is the question at hand.
    Whether parents want to know the sex of their babies or not, is a decision to be solely made by the parents. Government should not be able to take away this freedom. Like many of my classmates, I believe to completely take away the option of knowing the babies’ sex from all parents is not unjust. However, if parents are abusing ultrasound technology—say for selective abortion—the government should intervene. In my opinion, abortion should not be outlawed. I feel women should have the right to choose whether or not they want to bear a child, because at the end of the day that woman is responsible for another life. On the other hand, if a woman has made the decision to have a child, she should not be able to kill it on the basis of it being a little boy or girl. Once you’ve made the decision to have a child, you are fully aware that the sex of that child is ambiguous. You are going into the situation temporarily blinded with the notion that you’ll meet him OR her soon. At this point, you should be held fully accountable having made a knowledgeable decision.
    I think in order for the government to prevent selective abortion without prohibiting the use of ultrasound to reveal the sex of babies, the European Council is going to have to be a bit more creative. Perhaps, they should prohibit women from having abortions after they have willingly learned the sex of their babies—with the exception of extremely special conditions like the women being claimed mentally ill or something after. This, I feel, is a more feasible policy to be distributed across almost 50 countries.

  55. namin91 Says:

    While I think this is a very interesting situation, I don’t think there is really anything the government can do to stop “selective abortions” or even prohibit parents from finding out the sex of their unborn child. First of all, to not use ultrasound technology to figure out the sex of babies seems foolish to me. I know many people who don’t want to find out/want it to be a surprise, but I know just as many people who do. If it’s to start gendering their baby, fine. That’s odd to me, but fine. Many times though, parents simply want to know what they’re having and there is nothing wrong with that. To prohibit this seems like a waste of time and would be very unsettling for many expectant parents.

    Secondly, how does one deem what is and what isn’t a selective abortion? While I know this is a problem in many countries (I being an Indian, know that boys are preferred in India or that is how it used to be at least), you can’t say that a woman is having an abortion just because she has found out she’s having a girl or because she’s having a boy. Many personal factors and reasons go into getting an abortion, so there isn’t some common set of guidelines a woman follows when making that choice. And along with that, if a government is going to allow abortions to be legal, I don’t think it’s fair for them to say “You can have an abortion, BUT if we think you are doing it because you don’t like the sex of your baby, you aren’t allowed”. Allowing abortions isn’t something you can make conditional: you either allow it or you don’t. And once you do, you have no right to step in and say “WAIT! you can’t abort your child this now because we think you’re doing it for the wrong reasons”

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