- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 14, 2006


Canadian Melissa Vatkin has joined thousands of couples flocking to the United States to cash in on the disputed luxury of being able to dictate the sex of their next baby.

Parents from around the world are forking out about $19,000 for a groundbreaking sex-selection treatment offered by only a few U.S. clinics but banned in most countries.

The high-tech method of resolving the ancient question of “Would we prefer a boy or a girl?” has raised ethical concerns and fears that it could worsen a worrying sex imbalance plaguing countries such as China and India.

But for couples such as the Vatkins, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD, which proponents boast gives parents a 99 percent certainty of delivering a baby of the sex of their choice, the procedure is a godsend.

“This treatment has allowed us to realize our dream,” said Mrs. Vatkin, 36, a resident of British Columbia who recently gave birth to her fourth child, a preselected girl. She also has a 6-year-old daughter and two boys, ages 4 and 2, with her husband, Shawn, an oil company owner.

“We were desperate to have another girl, and our daughter really wanted a sister,”Mrs. Vatkin said. “It was important for us to balance our family.”

Family balancing is the refrain heard from most of the 2,000 couples who have sought the help of Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, who became a pioneer in the field of commercial sex selection about three years ago.

“Usually these couples have four or five children of one sex and desperately want one of the opposite sex. They want to balance their families in a way that works for them,” Dr. Steinberg said.

More than 50 percent of the couples who come to Dr. Steinberg’s Fertility Institute in Los Angeles are from outside the United States.

“They come from everywhere that it’s banned by law,” Dr. Steinberg said. “But in the United States, we really guard and cherish reproductive choice, and we are very reticent to allow the government to impinge on that.”

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