Infanticide by any other name: The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy

Symantics, symantics, right? From the NYT, the quandry of “The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy” [emphasis mine]:

What is it about terminating half a twin pregnancy that seems more controversial than reducing triplets to twins or aborting a single fetus? After all, the math’s the same either way: one fewer fetus. Perhaps it’s because twin reduction (unlike abortion) involves selecting one fetus over another, when either one is equally wanted. Perhaps it’s our culture’s idealized notion of twins as lifelong soul mates, two halves of one whole. Or perhaps it’s because the desire for more choices conflicts with our discomfort about meddling with ever more aspects of reproduction.

Unlike abortion. How, exactly, is this “unlike abortion”? Different name, yes, but “choosing” to “reduce” one or more fetuses for whatever reason is still (wait for it) abortion. And oh, the reasons are self-inflicted:

As Jenny lay on the obstetrician’s examination table, she was grateful that the ultrasound tech had turned off the overhead screen. She didn’t want to see the two shadows floating inside her. Since making her decision, she had tried hard not to think about them, though she could often think of little else. She was 45 and pregnant after six years of fertility bills, ovulation injections, donor eggs and disappointment — and yet here she was, 14 weeks into her pregnancy, choosing to extinguish one of two healthy fetuses, almost as if having half an abortion. As the doctor inserted the needle into Jenny’s abdomen, aiming at one of the fetuses, Jenny tried not to flinch, caught between intense relief and intense guilt.

“Things would have been different if we were 15 years younger or if we hadn’t had children already or if we were more financially secure,” she said later. “If I had conceived these twins naturally, I wouldn’t have reduced this pregnancy, because you feel like if there’s a natural order, then you don’t want to disturb it. But we created this child in such an artificial manner — in a test tube, choosing an egg donor, having the embryo placed in me — and somehow, making a decision about how many to carry seemed to be just another choice. The pregnancy was all so consumerish to begin with, and this became yet another thing we could control.”

She has a point, no? Since nothing natural occurred in the conception of the two children, there was nothing unnatural in her mind about aborting one because she already had other kids and didn’t have enough money.

Jenny’s decision to reduce twins to a single fetus was never really in doubt. The idea of managing two infants at this point in her life terrified her. She and her husband already had grade-school-age children, and she took pride in being a good mother. She felt that twins would soak up everything she had to give, leaving nothing for her older children. Even the twins would be robbed, because, at best, she could give each one only half of her attention and, she feared, only half of her love. Jenny desperately wanted another child, but not at the risk of becoming a second-rate parent.

How’s that for a redefinition of “good mother,” eh? One who justifies the end with faulty logic: I won’t be a good mother if I  have more than I want. It’s for the children! They’ll all suffer. Oh, and me, too.

“This is bad, but it’s not anywhere as bad as neglecting your child or not giving everything you can to the children you have,” she told me, referring to the reduction. She and her husband worked out this moral calculation on their own, and they intend to never tell anyone about it. Jenny is certain that no one, not even her closest friends, would understand, and she doesn’t want to be the object of their curiosity or feel the sting of their judgment.

Funny how Jenny’s certainty is so spot-on when her own “moral calculation” isn’t.

Many doctors refuse to “reduce” below twins. Others do not. Some allow parents to choose based on gender. Of course. How else do you choose which one of your healthy babies to kill?

After being rebuffed by physicians close to home, Jenny went online and found Dr. Joanne Stone, the highly regarded head of Mount Sinai’s maternal-fetal-medicine unit. Jenny traveled thousands of miles to get there. She still resents the first doctor back home who told her she shouldn’t reduce twins and another who dismissively told her to just buck up and buy diapers in bulk.

She should resent that doctor. Why wouldn’t you, when you’re told to do the right thing? But no, one must travel thousands of miles to find the doctor who will help you be Mommy Dearest.

The justification for eliminating some fetuses in a multiple pregnancy was always to increase a woman’s chance of bringing home a healthy baby, because medical risks rise with every fetus she carries. The procedure, which is usually performed around Week 12 of a pregnancy, involves a fatal injection of potassium chloride into the fetal chest. The dead fetus shrivels over time and remains in the womb until delivery. Some physicians found reduction unnerving, particularly because the procedure is viewed under ultrasound, making it quite visually explicit, which is not the case with abortion. Still, even some doctors who opposed abortion agreed that it was better to save some fetuses than risk them all.

Through the early 1990s, the medical consensus was that reducing pregnancies of quadruplets or quintuplets clearly improved the health of the woman and her offspring. Doctors disagreed about whether to reduce those to triplets or twins and about whether to reduce triplet gestations at all. But as ultrasound equipment improved and doctors gained technical expertise, the procedure triggered fewer miscarriages, and many doctors concluded that reducing a triplet gestation to twins was safer than a triplet birth. Going below twins, though, was usually out of the question.

Funny how that slippery slope works, isn’t it? Ground-breaking medical technology first used to save lives ends up terminating more in the end. Indeed.

Read the rest if you have the stomach.

Linked as one of Pundette’s “Recommended Reads.” Thanks!


9 Responses

  1. […] it shouldn’t surprise me. There are mothers out there who can’t bear the thought of changing more than one diaper at a time, so why […]

  2. Utter depravity

  3. pjMom, thank you for posting this.Your outrage is so justified, and you nailed it with the title. It’s one of the most harrowing things I’ve read in a while. But as Cathy says – important to know. I truly had no idea that this happens.

    I’ve linked to your post here:
    “Boutique Abortion: Some Terrible Truths Within Fertility Treatment Today”

    • Thanks for the link, Tina. I’ve known about this for a long time, but I’ve never seen such a brazen attempt to call an apple an orange.

  4. It is so appalling. Monsters is right. There is no greater evil than aborting for convenience. This is why I never read the NY Times. They actually glorify this horror.

  5. How horrible.
    I wonder how egg donor feels about aborting 1/2 of this pregnancy?

  6. @Cathy, It angers me beyond belief that someone would willingly choose to abort “which ever one is closest” only because she can’t fathom buying double the diapers or giving her older children a little bit less attention. Monsters.

  7. Thank you for this.

    It’s beyond horrible, but so important to know.

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