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Several times over the past few months, a small but striking ad from a Virginia-based fertility clinic has appeared in the Sunday Styles section of The New York Times. Alongside a smiling baby, its boldface headline asks, "Do You Want To Choose the Gender Of Your Next Baby?"

If so, the ad continues, you can join "prospective parents…from all over the world" who come to the Genetics & IVF Institute (GIVF) for an "exclusive scientifically-based sperm sorting gender selection procedure." The technique, known by the trademarked name MicroSort, is offered as a way to choose a girl or boy either for the "prevention of genetic diseases" (selecting against the sex affected by an X-linked or Y-linked condition) or for "family balancing" (selecting for a girl in a family that already has one or more boys, or vice versa).

GIVF has been promoting MicroSort on its website for several years, and a few other fertility clinics offer other "family balancing" methods online. But the MicroSort ads in The New York Times represent a bolder and higher-profile approach. They mark the...