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A bar too high: why we should not bar parents from knowing the sex of their fetus
  1. Dena S Davis
  1. Correspondence to Dr Dena S Davis, Religion Studies, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA 18015-3075, USA; dsd311{at}

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In her article, ‘Why Parents Should Not Be Told the Sex of Their Fetus’ Tamara Browne sets herself a challenging task. She argues that, in the interest of fighting gender essentialism, parents ought not to be told the sex of their fetus even when they request it. This is a very high bar for her arguments to hurdle. Many commentators, myself included, have argued that it would be better for parents not to know, and that parents ought not to seek to find out, the sex of their fetus. I have suggested, for example, that parents not be routinely provided with this information, but be required to ask for it, thus shifting the default.1 But it is one thing to claim that parents should voluntarily refrain from finding out, and another to argue that they should be barred from doing so.

There are a number of perspectives from which parents could claim that they have a right to this information. If we think of the fetus as part of the woman's body (as suggested by Roe v. Wade), then it would be as unacceptable to refuse information about the fetus as it would be to refuse information about the woman's own genetic make-up. If we focus instead on the fetus as a future child, there are again strong arguments that parents have the right to whatever knowledge exists about their child's medical records. Although sex is not exactly a ‘medical’ condition, it certainly a physical one, and one could claim that one has as much right to know that as one does the child's weight at birth or Apgar score.

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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