‘Selective Reduction’

A recent article in the New York Times titled ‘The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy’ described the practice of selective reduction, and its growing use to ‘reduce’ the number of unborn babies in a pregnancy from two to one.

‘Selective reduction’ is used to destroy one or more unborn babies when a multiple pregnancy occurs- most commonly from the use of IVF. During in vitro fertilization, multiple embryos are created in order to insure that at least one implants. Doctors claimed that this selective reduction was an intervention needed to avoid ‘extreme medical problems’ that arise with carrying more than one baby, and to lower health risks to the mother and the babies the mother will eventually bring home. Parents were offered “selective reduction” if they were expecting triplets or more.

Selective reduction is but another euphemism to avoid the word abortion. For this is what the procedure does, selecting one or more babies to abort. The smallest babies are usually targeted for abortion. How is this done?

“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.”

Now this decision has become just another option for women who carry twins whether the child is conceived naturally or through IVF. The most common justification given by couples for selective reduction is lifestyle preference. The New York Times interviewed a woman who was choosing to have an abortion of one of the twins conceived through IVF:

“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.”

Another woman mentioned in the New York Times article, Shelby aged 30, became pregnant with triplets after artificial insemination with her husband’s sperm following treatments with fertility drugs. Her reaction?
“Frantic, she yelled at the doctor: This is not an option for us! I want only one!”

Shelby says: “It was horrible, I felt like the pregnancy was a monster, and I just wanted it out, but because we tried for so long, abortion wasn’t an option.” We are told, she had difficulty finding a physician willing to ‘reduce’ her pregnancy from triplets to a single baby until she heard of a Dr. Evans in New York.

In fact, her decision to have two of her babies eliminated through ‘selective reduction’ was an abortion of two babies. You can change the words but you can’t change the reality. The cost for the procedure was $6,500.

In Canada, the National Post reported on ‘selective reduction’ in December 2010. The article mentions a successful career couple in Toronto with one child just over a year old, expecting twins in the woman’s second pregnancy:

“It came as a complete shock, said the mother, who asked not to be named. “We’re both career people. If we were going to have three children two years apart, someone else was going to be raising our kids…All of a sudden our lives as we like to lead them, are not going to happen.”
“She soon discovered another option: Doctors could reduce the pregnancy from twins to a singleton…

The mother said the Toronto doctor who eventually did her reduction performs several a month.”

…I’m absolutely sure I did the right thing,” she said. “I had read some online forums, people were speaking of grieving, feeling a sense of loss. I didn’t feel any of that. Not that I’m a cruel, bitter person…I just didn’t feel I would be able to care for (twins) in a way that I wanted to.”
In twin pregnancies, these abortions kill one child while the other one lives. The pregnancies are almost always planned and the surviving twin is carried to full term. In the case of IVF and other reproductive technologies, some of these babies are deliberately conceived, and then aborted so that only one child remains.

“Consider the choice of which fetus to eliminate; if both appear healthy (which is typical with twins) doctors aim for whichever one is easier to reach. If both are equally accessible, the decision of who lives and who dies is random. To the relief of patients, it’s the doctor who chooses – with one exception. If the fetuses are different sexes, some doctors ask the parents which one they want to keep.”

It is not known how many of these reductions occur every year, but those who offer to do the procedure of ‘selective reduction’ do admit that there is a demand for reduction of twins to one baby, and sadly that this demand is rising.