TIME Parenting

Girls Gone Wild Founder Uses Science To Make Sure His Children Are Girls

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Jeff Vespa—2012 Jeff Vespa

Joe Francis and partner Abbey Wilson are having twin girls with the help of IVF gender selection, a legal procedure in the U.S. that, on average, costs $18,000. "We both wanted girls and we wanted them to be healthy and free of genetic diseases," he reasoned

Today in unsettling news: Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis and girlfriend Abbey Wilson are having twins, and they used IVF to make sure they’re girls.

“We both wanted girls and we wanted them to be healthy and free of genetic diseases so we chose to do IVF,” Wilson, 26, told Us Weekly.

Francis told Us Weekly that he is looking forward to having daughters. “We chose to have girls,” he told the magazine. “I believe people will finally understand my love, respect and admiration for women. I love girls.” Francis, who founded the Girls Gone Wild franchise, which films young women, many of them teenagers, flashing their breasts, does not have a good history with women. In 2013, he was convicted of assault for taking three women home with him and forcibly trying to separate one woman from the other two, resulting in him grabbing her neck and hair and hitting her head against the floor. Los Angles Times writer Claire Hoffman, also recounted her disturbing time spent with Francis for a story, where he also got physical with her.

Francis’ comments about his respect for girls aside, that announcement that he had used medically assisted gender selection prompted lots of questions about how that works. It is a legal procedure in the United States, although it’s illegal in some countries. And there are a few methods that are used. One older technique involves sperm sorting, in which fertility clinics try to determine which sperm are carrying a Y chromosome, and which are carrying an X chromosome by their movement patterns (those with the Y chromosome swim faster).

But there’s another more precise way to do it—a method called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD. This procedure was originally developed as a way to determine whether embryos had genetic disorders. PGD paired with in vitro fertilization (IVF) allows fertility doctors to determine the gender of the embryos by screening fertilized embryos for XX chromosomes and XY chromosomes, allowing parents to decide which gender embryo they want to implant in the mother. (The selection process happens after the usual IVF process which involves having eggs harvested from the mother’s body and paired with sperm in vitro.)

According to a 2012 Slate article, gender selection rakes in $100 million a year, and the average cost for a procedure falls somewhere around $18,000.

What happens to the extra embryos? CNN reports that many families keep them frozen, indefinitely, some donate them to research, and others are discarded.

Basically, for Francis and Wilson to ensure they are having girls, it took a lot of time and money. And here’s hoping that being a father of daughters will give Francis some perspective on his franchise. After all, one day his girls will be teenagers too.

[Us Weekly]

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