Poking the pro-choice conscience

Pregnancy “reductions” are causing moral qualms for some pro-choice women. This is great news.

A “reduction” occurs when a woman is pregnant with more than one baby (e.g. twins or triplets) but chooses to abort some of her babies and keep at least one. One can easily see how this poses problems for women. After all, how is it possible that one of the babies is just a “clump of cells” and therefore expendable, while the other is a genuine baby that should be carried to term? It doesn’t make sense. The circumstances of these abortions also rule out the “mother’s health” argument, because she’s obviously fit to carry at least one baby to term.

Last summer, William Saletan wrote a great article about it. I recommend you read it. (The article was initially published in the National Post but it no longer appears on their website. Hmmm… Perhaps the article was too powerful for the pro-choice establishment? Fortunately, Google cached it)

Check out this quote:

According to Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, demand is rising for “reduction” procedures in which a woman carrying twins keeps one and has the other aborted. Since twin pregnancies are generally safe, these abortions are largely elective.

Across the pro-choice blogosphere, the article has provoked discomfort. RH Reality Check, a website dedicated to abortion rights, ran an item voicing qualms with one woman’s reduction decision. Jezebel, another pro-choice site, acknowledged the “complicated ethics” of reduction. Frances Kissling, a longtime reproductive rights leader, wrote a Washington Post essay asking whether women should forgo fertility treatment rather than risk a twin pregnancy they’d end up halfaborting.

In comments on these articles, pro-choice readers express similar misgivings. “Even as a woman who has terminated a pregnancy, I totally understand the author’s apprehension.. Something about it just doesn’t feel right,” said one. A commenter at Jezebel writes that “if I were put in the position and decided to/needed to abort a single fetus, I could. But if I knew that I was keeping the baby and it turned out to be twins, I don’t think I could have a reduction.” (Source)

You can sense how these people aren’t thinking straight and are going through mental contortions to rationalize their position. Take that last comment, for instance. How could that woman feel comfortable aborting a single baby if it happens to be alone in the uterus, but feel queasy about aborting a single baby if it happens to have a twin present in the uterus?  Hello? Is there a brain present in that skull?

The good news is that the questions are being asked and women are being forced to rethink the rationality of their positions. As Mr. Saletan explains:

But the main problem with reduction is that it breaches a wall at the centre of pro-choice psychology. It exposes the equality between the offspring we raise and the offspring we abort. (…)

This bifurcated mindset permeates pro-choice thinking. Embryos fertilized for procreation are embryos; embryos cloned for research are “activated eggs.” A fetus you want is a baby; a fetus you don’t want is a pregnancy. (…)

Reduction destroys this distinction. It combines, in a single pregnancy, a wanted and an unwanted fetus. In the case of identical twins, even their genomes are indistinguishable. You can’t pretend that one is precious and the other is just tissue. You’re killing the same creature to which you’re dedicating your life.

The only question is whether these women have the guts to act in accordance with the logical conclusions that they’re reaching. Their minds tell them that their position is untenable, but many will stifle their intellect and conscience and go ahead with the abortion anyways. It’s often too tempting to cave in to their inclination to feel so sorry for themselves that they’ll justify anything.

As Saletan concludes:

That’s the anguish of reduction: watching the fetus you spared become what its twin will never be. And knowing that the only difference between them was your will.

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