What happens when a woman is pregnant with two or more children but only wants one child? Or is told by doctors to abort one or more of her children to increase the chances of one healthy baby?
Fertility support forums are filled with agonizing comments on such “selective reduction” abortions. “I had quads and reduced to two. Its [sic] gut-wrenching please reconsider . . .” “My RE [reproductive endocrinologist] had me sign a document stating if selective reduction was in the best interest of me and the babies that I'd be required to complete the procedure.” “I have seen cases where selective reduction caused the loss of all the babies. You still risk the one (or ones) you want to keep, and you could end up with no baby at all.”
One doctor made a 37-year-old woman undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) agree that if all three of her embryos “took” she would have a selective reduction abortion. These shocking examples show just how numb to the horrors of abortion our nation has become in the forty years since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion on demand.
Selective abortion is usually performed in the first trimester of pregnancy. Guided by ultrasound, potassium chloride is injected into the heart of the baby who is not wanted. His or her remains shrivel up, and may be reabsorbed into the body of the mother or remain in the womb until delivery. The doctor who developed this form of abortion claims it is not an abortion since it does not end the pregnancy. But some of the women cited earlier know the truth.
Though some claim that selective abortions are performed to increase the chances of one healthy baby, many are sought by those who say they want a healthy baby of a certain sex or that they cannot handle more than one baby at a time. One recent report said that 78% were performed due to physical or mental abnormalities of the child. Abortion providers say that “reductions” are on the rise. No doubt the growing and virtually unregulated reproductive technology industry is partly to blame.
Every abortion is unreasonable and unnecessary, but selective abortions make even abortion advocates uneasy, because it requires recognition of the humanity of one child while rejecting the humanity of his or her sibling. If these children were killed outside the womb, we would call it gendercide or targeting those with disabilities. Calling it “abortion,” “reduction” or a “medical procedure” doesn’t change the fact that it takes an innocent human life.
Abortion advocates claim to promote women’s “choice,” but often it is the doctor who pressures or even coerces a woman to have a selective abortion. In the case of two healthy twins, it is often the doctor who chooses the death of the baby “easiest to reach.”
My two identical twin nieces just left home for their first semester of college. I can’t imagine life without both of them. They could not imagine life without each other. Many do not consider the effects of a selective abortion on the siblings who survive. How will it affect the survivors to find out that their brother or sister, with whom they shared the womb, was aborted at their side?
Let us pray for and work toward an increased respect for life and for an end to abortion. Until that day comes, let us also pray for all mothers who are pressured to abort a child, and for hope and healing for all parents and siblings who have suffered such loss.
Mary McClusky is Special Projects Coordinator at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. To learn more about the bishops’ pro-life activities, go to www.usccb.org/prolife.