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About Genetic Selection


Genetic selection procedures are done either on fetuses, through prenatal screening, or on embryos that are outside a woman’s body, through Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD).

PGD tests embryos for the presence of genetic sequences linked to a variety of conditions and characteristics. A cell is extracted from an embryo at its eight-cell stage and analyzed. Embryos with the selected characteristics can be implanted in a woman's uterus to develop into a child. The procedure does not appear to affect embryos’ or fetuses’ subsequent development, though more follow-up studies of children born after PGD are needed.


Frequently Asked Questions

Arguments Pro & Con

PGD was developed to allow couples at risk of passing on a serious genetic disease to have children not affected by it. Since its introduction in 1990, it has been most widely used to prevent the birth of children with conditions such as Down's syndrome, Tay-Sachs disease, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell, Huntington's chorea, and Cooley's anemia.

However, PGD is increasingly being used for other reasons. These include social sex selection, creating “savior siblings” who can provide bone marrow or other transplant tissues to sick older siblings, and selecting against embryos with genes correlated with late-onset and non-fatal conditions. Some clinics have even offered the technique for purely cosmetic traits including eye color, hair color, and skin complexion.

A newer variation of PGD, called Preimplantation Genetic Haplotyping, allows for many more genes to be tested, and for greater accuracy.

Many disability rights advocates, in particular, have been critical of PGD and prenatal screening. They point out that the definition of "disease" is to some extent subjective. Most support women’s right to decide whether or not to have a child at a given time, but are critical of basing this decision on the traits of the particular embryo or fetus.



Banning Abortion for Down Syndrome: Legal or Ethical Justification? by Bonnie SteinbockHastings Center Bioethics ForumAugust 26th, 2015Instead of passing an unenforceable and unconstitutional law, Ohio should devote its time to ensuring that all people with disabilities, Down syndrome or otherwise, get the resources and services they need.
Court: $50M verdict in Seattle-area ‘wrongful birth’ doesn't shock the conscienceby Levi PulkkinenSeattlePIAugust 26th, 2015Washington three-judge panel affirms multi-million jury award to couple who sued their fertility clinic for failing to effectively screen for their new child's chromosomal abnormality.
Ohio Bill Would Ban Abortion if Down Syndrome Is Reasonby Tamar LewinThe New York TimesAugust 22nd, 2015Abortion opponents are pushing Ohio to make it illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion if a woman is terminating her pregnancy to avoid having a baby with Down syndrome.
Conversation with Kelly Hills: Human Genetic Modification & Bioethicsby Paul KnoepflerKnoepfler Lab Stem Cell BlogAugust 20th, 2015An interview with bioethics commentator Kelly Hills tackles some of the key issues surrounding the potential use of CRISPR-Cas9 technology to make heritable genetic modifications in humans.
Fertility Clinics Let You Select Your Baby’s Sexby Sumathi ReddyThe Wall Street Journal"Family balancing," in other words sex selection of embryos, is permitted by US' lack of regulation. Professional organizations are split on their opinions of the practice.
It's Time for an Uncomfortable Discussion about What it Really Means to Engineer a 'Better Baby'[Australia] by Kevin LoriaBusiness Insider [Australia]August 13th, 2015“Humans have more flaws than we know what to do with ... One of them is that we don’t know what it would mean to make a better baby.”
Stars, Bars, and Embryosby Emma ManiereBiopolitical TimesJuly 28th, 2015Controversies about the confederate flag and prenatal genetic testing are far more complex than "choice" and "intent" suggest.
Slipping Into Eugenics? Nathaniel Comfort on the History Behind CRISPRby Elliot HosmanBiopolitical TimesJuly 23rd, 2015A historian unravels the social and political context of genetic research and eugenics in the United States.
This Company Is Trying To Make More Perfect Babiesby Azeen GhorayshiBuzzFeedJuly 12th, 2015As startup GenePeeks partners with a fertility clinic to screen egg donors for nearly 450 genetic changes linked to disease, critics worry about an emerging market for designer babies.
Eliminating Intersex Babies Is not a Legitimate Use of Genetic Embryo Testingby Celeste OrrThe GuardianJuly 11th, 2015Using preimplantation genetic diagnosis to select against embryos with culturally devalued bodies, like intersex people and people with disabilities, is simply a contemporary example of eugenics.
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