In 1984, human genetics and reproduction researcher and physician Joseph D. Schulman founded the Genetics and IVF Institute, an international organization that provides infertility treatment and genetic services to patients. IVF stands for in vitro fertilization, an infertility treatment in which a female egg is fertilized by male sperm outside of the female body. GIVF is headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, in association with Inova Health System, formerly called the Fairfax Hospital Association, one of the largest regional hospital systems in the United States. GIVF offers multiple infertility and genetic services including IVF, donor egg and donor sperm programs, prenatal genetic diagnostic testing, and sex selection technology. GIVF was one of the first medical facilities in the United States to offer IVF and has innovated other infertility treatments and genetic services.
By 2011, researchers in the US had established that non-invasive blood tests can accurately determine the gender of a human fetus as early as seven weeks after fertilization. Experts predicted that this ability may encourage the use of prenatal sex screening tests by women interested to know the gender of their fetuses. As more people begin to use non-invasive blood tests that accurately determine the sex of the fetus at 7 weeks, many ethical questions pertaining to regulation, the consequences of gender-imbalanced societies, and altered meanings of the parent-child relationship.
David Michael Rorvik is a science journalist who publicized advancements in the field of reproductive medicine during the late twentieth century. Rorvik wrote magazine articles and books in which he discussed emerging methods and technologies that contributed to the progression of reproductive health, including sex determination, in vitro fertilization, and human cloning. During that time, those topics were controversial and researchers often questioned Rorvik’s work for accuracy. Rorvik contributed to the field of reproductive medicine by communicating methods of reproductive intervention and contributing to the controversy around new developmental medicine technologies.
By questioning methods of sex selection since their early development, and often discovering that they are unreliable, scientists have increased the creative and technological capacity of the field of reproductive health. The presentation of these methods to the public, via published books on timing methods and company websites for sperm sorting, increased interest in, and influence of, sex selection within the global society. The purpose of explaining the history, interest, development, and impact of various sex selection methods in the mid-twentieth century based on the information that is available on them today is to show couples which methods have failed and provide them with the knowledge necessary to make an informed decision on how they choose to go about utilizing methods of sex selection.
In June 2015, the Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, or ASRM, published “Use of reproductive technology for sex selection for nonmedical reasons” in Fertility and Sterility. In the report, the Committee presents arguments for and against the use of reproductive technology for sex selection for any reason besides avoiding sex-linked disorders, or genetic disorders that only affect a particular sex. When couples have no family history of a sex-linked disease, the use of reproductive technology for sex selection raises ethical questions about the application of sex selection technology to fulfill parental desires. “Use of reproductive technology for sex selection for nonmedical purposes” examines the ethical debate surrounding sex selection for nonmedical purposes and is an educational and ethical reference for physicians who are considering offering those services in their practices.
In 1973, Ronald Ericsson developed the Ericsson method, which is a technique used to separate human male sperm cells by their genetic material. Ericsson, a physician and reproduction researcher, developed the method while conducting research on sperm isolation in Berlin, Germany, in the early 1970s. He found that the sperm cells that carry male-producing Y chromosomes move through liquid faster than the cells that carry female-producing X chromosomes. As a result of his findings, Ericsson suggested suspending a semen sample in a viscous liquid made from albumin protein, and collecting only sperm that quickly pass through the liquid. Shortly after Ericsson described his method, researchers demonstrated that it was effective for sex selection. However, later studies contested those results. Despite that, the Ericsson method is still utilized by couples in 2018 as a means of sex selection and was the first sperm separation technique used in combination with artificial insemination to enable people to select the sex of their children.
In the book Your Baby’s Sex: Now You Can Choose, David Michael Rorvik and Landrum Brewer Shettles describe methods that couples can use prior to and during conception that will increase the chances of producing a child of their desired sex. Rorvik, a science writer, and Shettles, an obstetrics and gynecology researcher and physician, co-wrote the book. Shettles developed the methods detailed in the book during the 1960s. Although the authors claim a high success rate, some researchers have contested the validity of the methods proposed in Your Baby’s Sex: Now You Can Choose. Despite contradicting evidence for the effectiveness of the methods, the book itself has remained popular throughout its forty consecutive years in print. Since its original publication, Your Baby’s Sex: Now You Can Choose has reached a large audience, with over 1.5 million copies of the book sold worldwide, while adding to the controversy about the ethics of sex selection research.
The Whelan Method of Sex Selection is a method for increasing a couple’s probability of conceiving an infant of the desired sex through timing intercourse. Elizabeth Whelan, a public health researcher, suggested that couples only have intercourse at specific times during the woman’s menstrual cycle based on whether they wanted a female or male infant. Whelan published her method in her book, Boy or Girl, in 1977. During the mid-to-late twentieth century, researchers offered other methods of timing intercourse for sex selection, but their results were based on studies of artificial insemination, rather than naturally occurring pregnancies. Whelan claimed her method was supported by natural insemination studies and that it worked for couples trying to conceive an infant of a particular sex.
"MicroSort, developed in 1990 by the Genetics and IVF Institute, is a form of pre-conception sex selection technology for humans. Laboratories located around the world use MicroSort technology to help couples increase their chances of conceiving a child of their desired sex. MicroSort separates male sperm cells based on which sex chromosome they contain, which results in separated semen samples that contain a higher percentage of sperm cells that carry the same sex chromosome. The technology ultimately enables couples to choose the sex of their future child by choosing semen samples that predominately contain sperm with the X chromosome for a female or Y chromosome for a male. MicroSort technology is a sperm sorting technique that provides couples worldwide a means of pre-conception sex selection.
In the 1960s in the United States Landrum B. Shettles developed the Shettles method, which is a procedure for couples to use prior to and during an intercourse to increase their chances of conceiving a fetus of their desired sex. Shettles, a physician, who specialized in obstetrics and gynecology, found a difference in the size and shape of male sperm cells that he correlated with the different sex chromosomes they carry. Based on that finding, Shettles developed procedures for couples to follow based on whether they desire a female or a male fetus and published them in the 1970 book, Your Baby’s Sex: Now You Can Choose. The Shettles method is based on the idea that male-producing sperm prefer alkaline conditions, whereas female-producing sperm prefer acidic conditions. The method provides couples with a procedure intended to enhance the favored environment for the sperm that will supposedly produce the desired sex, including female douches to be used before intercourse and how to time sexual intercourse within the female menstrual cycle. The book Your Baby’s Sex: Now You Can Choose, made the Shettles method a widely popular method of natural sex selection.