$18,499 Federal Study: Why Do Turkish Women Travel Abroad for Sex-Selective Procedures Prior to In Vitro Fertilization?

By Melanie Arter | March 6, 2015 | 2:36 PM EST

Turkish women in Ankara protest a ban on wearing Islamic head scarves in universities. (Associated Press)

(CNSNews.com) - The National Science Foundation has awarded $18,499 in taxpayer funding to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to study why women travel to Northern Cyprus to undergo illegal sex-selective procedures prior to in vitro fertilization usually used to identify genetic defects.

The doctoral dissertation research explores “the quest of Turkish citizens to select offspring gender prior to in vitro fertilization using pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. Citizens travel to Northern Cyprus for these procedures, which are illegal in Turkey.”

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis “is a procedure used prior to implantation to help identify genetic defects within embryos created through in vitro fertilization to prevent certain diseases or disorders from being passed on to the child.”

“The proposed research will use a multi-sited ethnography to explore whether families are utilizing gender selection technology to achieve traditional son preference standards, or more modern, balanced families,” the grant said.

The research “explores the extent to which moral pluralism is present, meaning the extent to which there are multiple values essentially involved that are equally fundamental, yet conflict with one another.”

“These ethical issues will be situated within a larger socio-political context, Muslim-majority secular countries of the Mediterranean,” it added.

The study explores “how gender selection is understood, utilized and made morally appropriate by Turkish citizens as a mode of reproduction.” It also questions “what tensions or transformations in contemporary Turkish ideologies of gender and family are revealed by these moral negotiations.”

The research “will contribute to feminist studies of reproductive technologies informed by Science and Technology studies, the emerging scholarship on reproductive tourism in anthropology and the ethnography of gender, family and nationalism in Turkey, considering trans-nationalism in relation to global flows of technology and people as well as constraints posed by the state.”

CNSNews.com contacted Heather Paxson, principal investigator of the grant, for comment by e-mail, but no comment was given by press time.

The grant funding starts on March 15, 2015 and lasts for one year, ending approximately on Feb. 29, 2016.

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