Some couples want a baby boy badly. So badly they're willing to fly halfway around the world to get one. Destination? The United States.
Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, director of The Fertility Institutes in Los Angeles and New York City, has for several years offered a fertility procedure allowing affluent couples to choose their baby's gender. Sex selection, outlawed in many countries, is legal in the United States: Steinberg's clinics have treated "thousands" of couples from India, China, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and 142 other nations.
Steinberg recently told the London Evening Standard that he's helped around 400 British couples conceive their choice of a boy or girl. They sometimes pay $45,000 or more for one of Steinberg's package deals that includes treatment, plane tickets, and a hotel. The doctor opened his New York clinic in 2008 to cater to British and European patients, who are perhaps less than an eight-hour flight away. Sex selection is illegal within the United Kingdom, but Steinberg boasted that "leading British politicians" fly to his New York office for that very purpose.
Steinberg admitted his clinics have recently seen a "huge growth" of Chinese clients. Almost all of them—98 percent—ask for a boy. So do most Indian couples. Both countries ban sex selection, but it's practiced illegally because of cultural preferences for boys.
Several U.S. clinics perform sex selection using preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD): Doctors obtain the couple's sperm and eggs, mix them in a dish, and implant only a few embryos of the desired gender. Steinberg typically performs PGD by fertilizing eight or nine eggs and implanting just one embryo, discarding or freezing the others.
In 2009 Steinberg considered allowing parents to choose their child's eye and hair color, too (see "Eugenics," March 28, 2009). He nixed the idea after a pro-life outcry.