May 1, 1987

Gendercide: The Implications of Sex Selection

Author Affiliations

University of Chicago Medical Center

University of Chicago Medical Center


by Mary Anne Warren (New Feminist Perspectives), 209 pp, $22.95, paper $12.95, Totowa, NJ, Rowman & Littlefield, 1985.

JAMA. 1987;257(17):2362-2363. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03390170118043

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"Will women become obsolete?" The theme of this book is the need for and utility of reliable methods of sex selection. It is written "from a feminist perspective." Warren defines gendercide as "the deliberate extermination of persons of a particular sex." While this neologism is indeed "sex-neutral," it hints at the book's moral certitude in addressing the questions surrounding preconceptive and postconceptive sex selection. The author seeks to protect and defend women's choices, whether to abort an unwanted, "wrong sex" fetus or to participate in affirmative action programs to reverse son-preference and sexism in our society. Specific counterstrategies to male domination are encouraged.

The book has eight chapters, which, despite their brevity, are surprisingly comprehensive. Objections to sex selection are divided into consequentialist (social) and nonconsequentialist (moral) camps. Unattractive precedents to sex selection, including witch hunts and widow sacrifices, are examined, and the question whether more males would mean more