Justice in the Context of Family Balancing

Michelle L. McGowan, Richard R. Sharp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Bioethics and feminist scholarship has explored various justice implications of nonmedical sex selection and family balancing. However, prospective users' viewpoints have been absent from the debate over the socially acceptable bounds of nonmedical sex selection. This qualitative study provides a set of empirically grounded perspectives on the moral values that underpin prospective users' conceptualizations of justice in the context of a family balancing program in the United States. The results indicate that couples pursuing family balancing understand justice primarily in individualist and familial terms rather than in terms of social justice for women and girls or for children resulting from sex selection. Study participants indicated that an individual's desire for gender balance in their family is ethically complex and may not be inherently sexist, immoral, or socially consequential, particularly given the social context in which they live. Our findings suggest that the social conditions that contribute to prospective users' desires for gender balance in their families may direct them away from recognizing or engaging broader social justice concerns relating to sexism and stratified reproduction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-293
Number of pages23
JournalScience Technology and Human Values
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • ethics
  • family balancing
  • gender
  • justice
  • nonmedical sex selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Human-Computer Interaction


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