I'll have a girl, please

Sleeping child

TEXT OF STORY

SCOTT JAGOW: Some friends of mine just had a baby recently. The baby's room is painted beige, I think. They waited until the last minute to find out if it was a boy or a girl. But parents don't have to leave it to chance anymore. They can choose the sex of their child. And the controversial business of gender selection is growing pretty fast. Marketplace's Lisa Napoli reports.


LISA NAPOLI: Jennifer Merrill Thompson would never play favorites.

She loves her two sons, but she has a special place in her heart for her 4-year-old daughter, Rachel.

JENNIFER MERRILL THOMPSON: "I really, really wanted a daughter, and I knew that technology was probably the only way it was going to happen for me. And we didn't want to keep having boy after boy. I didn't want to have a huge family, so we were willing to spend the money to do Microsort.

It took Thompson about two years and over $12,000 to conceive Rachel using a special sperm sorting technology that's still not widely available.

She and her husband got the money from savings and used credit cards for the rest.

MERRILL THOMPSON: "She's just wonderful, and so if she gets spoiled a little bit, that's OK."

There's a more expensive and surefire method than the one Thompson used to have her baby girl.

[ DR. JEFFREY STEINBERG:"So this is the IVF laboratory, OK? I don't know if you can see, there's pass-through boxes over there, those are surgical rooms where we actually take the eggs out." ]

People come from all over the world to have Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg in southern California help them make the baby of their choice.

He's found a way to use in-vitro fertilization to help his clients have the boy or girl of his dreams.

The cost: $20,000.

Dr. Steinberg says it's 99 percent accurate:

STEINBERG: It's a whole new group of people that can take advantage of in-vitro fertilization.

NAPOLI: How big a part of your business is this?

STEINBERG: It's become larger and larger. It used to be 5 percent and it's coming up on 40 percent now, so it's getting bigger.

Steinberg says he'e helped conceive over 2,000 babies so far-and he says he gets about equal requests for boys and girls.

This growing business of sex selection's got the ethicists thinking:

DR. DEBORAH SPAR: The ability to choose gender is really only the first step here.

Harvard Business School's Dr. Deborah Spar is the author of "The Baby Business."

She says as we learn more about the human genome, people are likely to want to do more than choose the gender of their babies:

SPAR:"Trying to make their children taller. Trying, although this is still impossible at the moment, to select the genes for intelligence.

Dr. Spar says already, $3 billion a year are spent on the commerce of conception.

She says there's sure to be a big market for genetic choice and a big investment opportunity, too.

In Los Angeles, I'm Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.

About the author

In more then twenty years in journalism, Lisa Napoli has managed to work for almost every major

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