A report by Liberation in Pakistan has highlighted pre-implantation screening spin-offs in the gender selection market, “designer babies have become a lucrative business for several clinics”.
These private clinics operate openly, using slogans such as “do you want a boy or girl? – it’s up to you” or “choose your baby’s gender before getting pregnant: pre-implantation screening for balanced families!” Offering pre-implantation screening at a cost of €3,500 to €7,000€, the clinics “are attracting more and more couples” in a society that prefers boys.
Thus embryologist Nighat Mahmood from the Life Clinic, notes that since 2009, “not one couple has used this approach to have a girl”. He chillingly reported that “female embryos are thrown in the rubbish bin” and relished the fact that, in six years, “the number of pre-implantation screening procedures has exploded” in his clinic. “When we started out, we were dealing with the more affluent. But now patients come from all walks of life if they manage to raise the money”.
In this country, “the 23 clinics practising this technique are not bound by legislation”. The “odd few” specialists tend to resist, refusing to “create designer babies”. However, as Nasim Ashraf, Director of one clinic in Islamabad explained, “the door is not completely closed, still haunted by the suicide of one of its patients pressurised by her family”. Others explain that, “you have to have a heart of stone to refuse the procedure for desperate couples” or we are not “fans of this procedure in an ideal Pakistan, but we are helping to save marriages and protect wives”. This reasoning does not convince scientist Pervez Hoodboy, “who emphasises the ‘false morality’ and ‘excuses’ put forward by these clinics ‘in order to make money’”.