CARBONDALE -- Selecting specific traits in regards to athletic performance, intelligence, height or eye color is not possible in reproductive technology, according to Judith Daar, a professor at Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa, Calif.
Daar's statement came Friday during a lecture on genetic selection that was broadcast via teleconference from the SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.
She was delivering the 2014 John and Marsha Ryan Bioethicist-in-Residence presentation, which was canceled at SIU's School of Law on Wednesday because of weather-related travel delays.
"That gets a lot of play in the academic literature and the popular press, which I think is undeserved," Daar said of trait selection. "The idea of being able to select the nine traits -- all the things parents want to manipulate in their children -- is not clinically possible today."
Daar said they are not possible are due to multi-genetic and multi-factoral reasons, including environmental, atmospheric and uterus factors.
"It would be impossible to pick out every gene that we think is associated with eye color," Daar said.
Daar said medical selection and sex selection is possible, with the latter as an option for parents who want gender balancing or want to determine a gender order of birth.
"If you wanted an equal number of boys and girls, you can do that," Daar said. "If you want the girl to be older or the boy to be older, you can certainly do that."
In terms of the negative impact of sex selection, Daar said that it subjects mothers to external pressure from family members and is a psychological burden on offspring to meet expectations.
"The most profound reason for supporting access to non-medical sex selection is it supports reproductive autonomy and parental choice," Daar said. "If we can choose to reproduce, then perhaps we have the right to reproduce in the way that best suits our family planning."
Daar said that 14 states have mandates for providing infertility care health insurance, while the Affordable Care Act does not.
Illinois requires insurance companies to provide infertility coverage to employee groups of more than 25, according to the Illinois Department of Insurance.
"For many people, doing a single cycle of in vitro fertilization takes all of their resources," Daar said.
Daar was appointed to the ethics committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in 2008.
Her latest book "The New Eugenics: Selective Breeding in an Era of Reproductive Medicine" will be published later this year.