Readers Say ‘I’m Pro-Choice, But …’ To Twin Reduction Story

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A couple of weeks ago the New York Times published a cover story for the Sunday magazine about women who use fertility drugs and procedures to get pregnant, become pregnant with twins and then decide to undergo “selective reduction” for lifestyle reasons. Here’s how reporter Ruth Padawer described what happens:

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.

It’s certainly a difficult and provocative story to read, no matter your view of abortion, and many people were outraged. Blogger Bad Rachel thought the story was horrible and compared it to the twin-culling of Josef Mengele. I thought the story itself was good, if very sad. The reporter presents the information in a very straightforward manner. One mother says that when she found out she was pregnant with twins, she was pretty sure she couldn’t give them both enough attention. So, she says, “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.” We learn that no one, not even the surviving twin, will be told about what happened to his mate in the womb.

The writer asks a provocative question:

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.

The article includes some interesting details about how consumerism has spread to other areas where technology and infertility collide. There’s a brief discussion of terminating a pregnancy because of the sex of the child. And a discussion of the psychological effects on the surviving twin.

But what’s interesting about the article is that so many people reacted negatively to twin-reduction. The New York Times ran a graphic breaking down some of the responses to it:

Valerie from California, a commenter to the graphic above explained her perspective:

I felt uncomfortable because Jenny had pursued pregnancy so aggressively — apparently because she so desperately wanted another child. Yet her attitude about the abortion was so cavalier, I had to wonder about her motivation for wanting another child. If you want a child so desperately that you’re willing to go through years of physical and financial hardship to become pregnant, it seems very…strange that it was so easy to just snuff one fetus out because it was located close to where the needle would go. Jenny’s description of the process as being “consumerish” and of the abortion as just being “one more choice” didn’t help her case, either.

Her “half of my love” rationale for the procedure came across as being phenomenally thoughtless — what about her other kids? Is she going reduce their allotment of maternal love so that she can transfer it to the new baby? Does she *really* see her kids as such consumerish commodities? For me at least, this was how she came across in the article.

As for the lesbian couple, they knew that ending up with four babies was an option. Why in heaven’s name did they get pregnant at the same time? It’s very hard to feel sympathy for people who did such an effective job of creating a difficult situation for themselves. Yeesh!

Am I pro-choice? Yes, but…not as a commodity-driven consumer option. Should we legislate against it? That wouldn’t work. But it would help if our laws banned the transfer of multiple embryos and forced insurance companies to cover infertility.

Did you read the article? What did you think?