Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pregnancy reduction

I recently read a New York Times article on the whole subject of 'Pregnancy Reduction'. In layman's terms, it means that a woman with multiple pregnancies can chose to terminate some of her future children when they are growing in her uterus. While keeping one or more of the others alive.....

The practice began as a spin-off of in-vitro fertilisation. There are many, many couples who have been blessed with wonderful children thanks to this modern scientific advancement and I am sure it will be a blessing to many more. Yet, it is a little known fact that in many centres, embryos that are not implanted in the uterus are disposed off or used to produce embryonic stem cells. Also, in most cases, more than 4 or 5 embryos are placed in the uterus in order to increase the chance of a successful implantation. This sometimes leads to multiple pregnancies which could theoretically increase the risk for the mother. Hence, pregnancy reduction was introduced as a means of reducing the risk of an already precious pregnancy.

But just as abortion now happens mainly for social reasons, the same situation has occurred with pregnancy reduction. As the age of pregnancy slowly goes up, with women conceiving well into their 40s and even early 50s, these women don’t want to be in their 60s worrying about two tempestuous teenagers or two college-tuition bills. Many of the women were in second marriages, and while they wanted to create a child with their new spouse, they did not want two, especially if they had children from a previous marriage. Others had deferred child rearing for careers or education, or were single women tired of waiting for the right partner. Whatever the particulars, these patients concluded that they lacked the resources to deal with the chaos, stereophonic screaming and exhaustion of raising twins. 

And so, even women with twin pregnancies, which most doctors agree, carry negligible increased risk, are now reducing their pregnancies to singletons not for medical reasons anymore, but for social reasons. And while in the past it was not acceptable to reduce a pregnancy from a twin to a singleton, now it is becoming more and more common. As on of the pioneers of the procedure succinctly put it “Ethics evolve with technology.” Another doctor traced the evolution of the procedure of Pregnancy reduction. “It didn’t start with people who conceived twins and said, ‘I only want one’; it ended up with that.”

It is difficult and possibly even dangerous to be dogmatic and legalistic on issues like this. But I think it is sensible to think about these things and make up our own minds about where we stand. And as I think of pregnancy reduction, the one question that comes to my mind is this - Would I be able to look at my child and not wonder about the little brother or sister that was terminated in utero? I think that would be difficult......


  1. It is a very sad thing what wo/men are capable of doing to the littlest of these...

    I had touched on it once in Coffee with Jesus - a snapshot below...

    "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute." Proverbs 31:8

    In our modern society, many a times we miss the opportunity to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves for fear of rejection or humiliation.

    Are we bold enough to stand up for our values or are we just trying to fit in the crowd, going with the flow, fearing what others will think if they come to know of our faith.

    Just for an example if among friends or coworkers a dialogue about abortion rights comes up, how do we react? Do we simply not say anything or do we nod our heads depending on how the wind blows or do we stand up for the unborn child who can not yet speak for him/herself?

  2. Someone very close to me had an abortion under pressure from her family. More than 4 decades have passed since then but she still feels pangs of pain and guilt when she thinks of that baby.

    I see her, and I know I won't need to go through the ordeal to know what the right choice is!

  3. I would like more evidence for this 'social' pregnancy reduction. Medical reasons I agree, but social?? Anything is possible in this crazy world though!!


  4. Thanks Deepa for that personal insight. NRIgirl, I had written a post on how to argue against abortion a long time ago. Will find it and link to it soon. And Suneeta, I assure you that the majority of abortions carried out today are for social rather than medical reasons. As for pregnancy reduction this was a quote from a doctor who does this procedure. Please link through to the Times article to read the quote. It does seem strange that women who go through the whole IVF struggle to get pregnant will then chose to abort one or more of the babies. But I am no-one to judge...