Pregnancy Reduction, An Everyday Horror in the Culture of Death

The New York Times Magazine has a heartbreaking article on yet another monument to the culture of death—pregnancy reduction. In case you have never heard the term, here’s what pregnancy reduction is in a nutshell. When a pregnant mother is carrying two or more babies in her womb, she can choose to kill one or more of those babies while allowing others to live. According to pro-choicers, pregnancy reduction is a practice that began years ago to reduce health risks for women carrying multiples. Pro-choicers have also reasoned that pregnancy reduction increases chances for surviving multiples to make it to term.

But that was then, and this is now. What began as a misguided attempt to help women and (some!) unborn babies, has now devolved into the slippery slope. Now, the procedure is increasingly performed on women carrying twins. In fact, the Times article focuses in particular on the increasing number of women who carry twins but who for whatever reason only want one of them to live. The reasons for killing one and letting the other live range from finances to time-management. The opening paragraphs offer a glimpse into one woman’s pregnancy reduction:

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.”

The rest of the article goes on to describe the moral quandary that these women find themselves in. The women seem to have a sense that killing a perfectly healthy baby while letting its sibling live is wrong. Their consciences trouble them, and they do it in secret without ever telling any of their friends. They cover their tracks even though they otherwise openly support abortion rights. So why the guilt about killing a twin but no guilt about killing a single?

I can imagine at least one answer to that question. The surviving twin will always remind the mother of what might have been. The surviving twin holds a magnifying glass up to the humanity of the child that was killed. The survivor is a living witness to what the human conscience already knows, and no inane euphemism (like “pregnancy reduction”) can completely suppress what the heart knows to be true. Every single person—born and unborn—is created in the image of God. To kill innocent unborn human life, therefore, is a grave moral evil. And nothing brings that truth home more powerfully than a surviving twin.

This article makes one thing clear, even if only by accident. There really is no ethically significant difference between “reduction” and abortion. Both procedures subordinate the baby’s right to life to the personal convenience of the mother.

The reasons for reducing to a singleton are not so different from the decision to abort a pregnancy because prenatal tests reveal anomalies. In both cases, the pregnancies are wanted, but not when they entail unwanted complications — complications for the parents as much as the child. Many studies show the vast majority of patients abort fetuses after prenatal tests reveal genetic conditions like Down syndrome that are not life-threatening. What drives that decision is not just concern over the quality of life for the future child but also the emotional, financial or social difficulty for parents of having a child with extra needs. As with reducing two healthy fetuses to one, the underlying premise is the same: this is not what I want for my life.

In other words, some parents have an inviolable plan for their lives that doesn’t include the intrusion of an unwanted child. That child’s right to live has to give way to the mother’s right not to be put-out by the burden of caring for her child. This logic is morally bankrupt, but it is all too common fare today.

In this article, the euphemism “pregnancy reduction” is a rouse. It is a term that attempts to cover-up a great moral evil. The expression plainly functions to deflect attention from an intolerable contradiction—that one unborn child might be allowed to live while its perfectly healthy sibling is destroyed. But the covering is a fig leaf, and that is seen most conspicuously in the troubled consciences of the mothers and medical professionals in this article who have participated in this procedure.

At the end of the day, it’s not just the euphemism that is the problem. It is the heinous evil that the euphemism is trying to hide that should scandalize us. Reducing a pregnancy means killing an innocent human. Just as we don’t want to give in to the mores of a decadent culture, neither should we be complicit in covering evil with clever obfuscations. Such talk is a not-too subtle throwback to an ancient method that humans use to justify sin—calling evil good and calling good evil (Isaiah 5:20). Make no mistake. God is outraged at that, and so should we.

Read the rest here. Weep. Pray.

Maranatha.

17 Responses to Pregnancy Reduction, An Everyday Horror in the Culture of Death

  1. Bryan Cross August 11, 2011 at 1:43 am #

    Denny,

    There is something else each of us can do, besides weep and pray. Notice this paragraph:

    “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.”

    Make sure your denomination has a position paper clearly stating the immorality of IVF, and egg donation. If we’re silent about the immorality of IVF and egg donation, then “pregnancy reduction” is exactly what we should expect, because it naturally follows, for the very reasons Jenny describes.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  2. donsands August 11, 2011 at 7:59 am #

    Thanks for posting this. I never knew this. I shall be bold to speak up against this henious procedure. I have a heavy heart for the women who are blinded, moreso than the doctors who get a fat check for killing humans.
    I am forever grateful to our Lord that He had mercy on me, way back when my wife was pregnant, and I suggested abortion, back in 1971, and my wife began to weep, and so we had a little girl, and though she was premature, and lived only one day, we remember her as God’s gift. We then had another child a year later, and she had four sons, who are incredible. Thank You Lord!

  3. Derek August 11, 2011 at 9:14 am #

    When I read things like this, and the pervasive sex selection that is occurring all over this globe, I begin to see why God will ultimately pronounce a judgment of fire that will parallel the Flood. Isaiah 24 makes a lot more sense when you realize how wicked mankind is. Have mercy on us, O God.

  4. Alex Humphrey August 11, 2011 at 11:52 am #

    I’ve heard of this before. It may be the most heart breaking part of abortion. It seems inevitable, a slippery slope that got here.

    We pretend that someday women won’t abort babies because of their eye color, or hair color, or because they’re an inch too tall or too short, but every day something like this happens and we slip further down that horrible slope.

  5. Amanda August 12, 2011 at 8:34 am #

    “So why the guilt about killing a twin but no guilt about killing a single?”

    You seem to be making the assumption that women who abort a twin feel more guilt or more immediate guilt than women who abort the only child they are carrying. This is not so. The increase in percentage of alcohol and drug addiction, mental illness, suicide attempts and more among women who have had an abortion show that there is a huge amount of guilt connected to it in any form.

    • Rita August 15, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

      I think what he means is why does this woman feel guilt about killing a twin, and yet no guilt about killing a single since you support abortion. It she truly felt any guilt at all she shouldn’t support any form of abortion.

  6. Jeff August 12, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    Wow, I never knew this was happening. Such sadness, horror. Heartbreaking.

    Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

  7. Christianes August 12, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    I long for the compassion for the unborn to be extended to the born . . .
    when that solidarity comes ‘full circle’, we shall see a change in our world at last.

    ‘Life’ . . . choose life

    support ‘life’ from conception to natural death

    love as Christ loved, and desire deeply that all people should live and be well

    • Christianes August 12, 2011 at 10:50 am #

      I see in ‘abortion’ and in ‘pregnancy reduction’ a mirror of our society’s devaluation of life . . . accepting that some in our world be treated poorly so that others may have more luxuries, accepting that some children go without and suffer, while our own thrive in a world of more than plenty, accepting that our ‘compassion’ is limited to areas where we know we will not be asked to sacrifice of our own substance so that good may come to others . . .

      ‘abortion’ and all its related ‘cousins’ . . . they are spawned by our own selfishness and failure to welcome all life and celebrate it by embracing the ‘common good’ as a goal for all people

      the sooner we realize this . . . the sooner we will see change

      until then, perhaps ‘legislation’ is the only ‘answer’ that makes ‘sense’ to our limited range of vision which aims to ‘control’ others rather than to renew our world

  8. Anonymous August 12, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

    Thanks for this post. It is terrible that this happens. It is sickening that the fertility doctors present “pregnancy reduction” in this ‘business-as-usual’ fashion. It is good for Christians–especially those who are dearly wanting children and may be considering walking in to a fertility clinic–to be aware that this is something that you will likely be presented with. Christians can have a redemptive influence even in this unlikely area of our culture. I know different couples who have either:

    a) undergone fertility treatments adamantly telling their doctor they will have ALL their little babies (in the form of fertilized eggs) implanted, and THEY chose how many eggs would be fertilized, not the doctor. (From what I understand, the doctor fertilizes a bunch of eggs, implants the number he thinks should go in, allowing for natural death rates, and then they abort the ‘extras’ from there) or,

    b) through “embryo adoption,” adopted someone else’s abandoned babies, had them implanted in the wife, thus saving them from being unjustly thrown in the trash. Those kids are being loved by a Mommy and Daddy who love Christ and saved these little ones from an early death.

    • Christianes August 13, 2011 at 11:07 am #

      What is the stand of conservative Christians on in vitro fertilization ?
      Seems that many fertilized embryos are destroyed . . . would that not also upset those who oppose abortion ?

      I understand that the procedure is to burn embryos that are not used.

  9. Amos August 13, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    Imagine the uproar if, when we selected our cute puppy from the litter, we were told the remaining pups would be slaughtered. That’s what pregnancy reduction is… adults choosing a pet… maybe it’s the boy over the girl, or maybe it’s simply random. But these aren’t dogs. These are humans bearing the image of God. Oh, if we could only kill God.

  10. Barry Applewhite August 13, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    This is a repugnant practice that I knew nothing about. Thanks for the post!

    -Barry

  11. Mary August 15, 2011 at 11:04 am #

    Really?? Oh my goodness!! I just get so upset listening to someone trying to justify this process! There is no justification to this!!! It is murder and anyway you look at it, it is wrong!
    I dont care how the egg got inside of her or who did it! God gave the child life and no one should take that away!!
    point blank! It is black and white and not hard to figure out!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. We the Posterity - August 12, 2011

    [...] You can read the rest of Burke’s thoughts here. [...]

  2. Denny Burk on Pregnancy Reduction | Barry's Biblical Notes - August 13, 2011

    [...] It is appalling to read about new forms of evil. Denny Burk has posted about one on his blog.  I did not know about this variant of abortion, even though I subscribe to [...]

  3. Abortion is evil « Death Nor Life - August 15, 2011

    [...] The next is more horrific than what we usually think off when we hear of abortion (if that’s even possible). Have you heard of Pregnancy Reduction? What if you actually wanted a child but ended up with twins? Well, in some places it’s possible to have your wish after all. Read about Pregnancy Reduction here. [...]

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