GENDER VENDORS

Are You A Boy? Or Are You A Girl?

In frontier Texas, men believed in taking off everything but their boots during sex if they wanted a son. Ancient Greeks tied off one testicle (the left if they wanted boys, the right for girls) before intercourse. The French improved on this technique: 18th-century noblemen had their left testicles amputated. In colonial America, men hung their pants on the right bedpost if they wanted a son.

No matter what people have tried, mother nature has always kept her odds on gender selection at about 50-50. (Actually, more boy babies are conceived but there is a higher chance of miscarriage.) But the difficulty of beating the odds hasn’t deterred a growing interest in gender selection among parents-most of whom already have children, and most of whom (52 percent) are going for a girl, according to Dr. Richard P. Dickey, who operates the Fertility Institute of New Orleans.

As usual, commerce has been quick to tap into the trend. Coming next month to a Drug Emporium near you is Gender Choice, which sells for about $45. Produced by ProCare Industries Ltd. in Denver. Gender Choice offers guidance on how to create the optimal environment for conceiving the offspring of your choice.

Does it work? Unfortunately, no, say scientists and physicians.

According to Dr. William Byrd, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of the Andrology and In Vitro Fertilization labs at the University of Texas Health Science Center, the gender vendors are on thin ice scientifically. Recent medical publications have shown no statistical differences in gender selection result from using these methods. “It’s a snake oil approach to sex selection,” says Dr. Ronald Ericsson, a Montana-based reproductive physiologist who holds the only patented sex selection technique, offered in at least fifty clinics worldwide, So far, Ericsson’s method, which involves artificial insemination, is one of the few such processes to gain credibility in the medical community.

The Japanese have come up with another sperm separation technique that may improve on Ericsson’s. Sperm are layered through cylinders until the heavier female (XX) chromosomes fall to the bottom. According to Dr. Jerry Hall, a Raleigh, North Carolina, reproductive biologist who has been using this technique for more than a year. 75 percent of the sperm are recovered compared with 10 percent using Ericsson’s technique. Hall admits he’d like to give this procedure the test of time, but his pregnancy rate has been high- 52 percent. Five Dallas area physicians are planning to offer the technique around the beginning of 1987.

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