Get widget

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Minus One Pregnancies and Abortion

"My body, my choice."

Simple, isn't it? Pro-choice opinion with all of its reasoning and nuances wrapped up in a simple, catchy slogan. It makes it easy. I'm pro-choice. I believe that a woman's body is her domain and no one else has the right to tell her what she can and can't do with it.

But is it, perhaps, too easy? The problem with catch-phrases is that they remove the thought necessary to really form an educated opinion, so that when faced with the specifics of certain situations, people can then say, oh, yeah, but that, that's different. And they're never forced to re-examine their view. They separate situations, and still feel like they can say that they fully believe in one, without looking at the larger implications.

This article in the New York Times is what forced me to really think about this topic. Because if I were truly all about choice, then the concept of terminating one twin fetus and keeping the other one because parents only wanted one child would not squick me out.

But it does a little. I don't know if it's because I have twins, or what, and don't get me wrong, I'd never say to a woman having this done that she was wrong. I don't believe she is, intellectually speaking. But I can't help the distant rumble in my gut at the idea. Or, at least I couldn't without sitting down and really thinking about it, really thinking about my stance on abortion.

It's not the half-abortion, even, that bothers me so much. I think it's more the specific things this woman says, and the specific reasoning given in the article for why people would do this. But does that matter if it's a woman's body, a woman's choice? No. Her reasons don't matter, and the opinions are hers to have.

"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."

My original reaction? Wait, so you tried to get pregnant for six years, using technology you knew would likely result in multiples and now you are going to terminate one of them? Why?

That reaction sucks. It doesn't matter. She wanted one kid and she can legally give herself one kid. It is not my place to say that because she'd been trying for a long period of time and using fertility treatments that she should have to have twins.

"“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."

Okay, so at 45, she feels like she can't handle twins. And she feels like having other children means she doesn't need two more. And she feels that she doesn't have enough money for two, even though she had enough money for expensive fertility treatments. (Maybe they used up her disposable income.)

Fair enough. I don't necessarily agree or disagree with any of those things, but I'm not her. Her body, her choice. Which leads to the sad fact that she felt she had to try to rationalize it to the public at all. Decisions like this are not easily made clear to outsiders. She shouldn't have to justify her actions, and in doing so, she succeeds in giving off the opposite impression of what she is going for, at least to me. Because then she says this:

"“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.""

I...I don't like this. The logic is flawed, and she is insinuating that by creating her child through artificial means, it means less than if it were produced naturally. I'm sure many IVFers would disagree. A natural order of things? Does that mean the child that you continue to carry is unnatural in some way? Will you treat your natural children differently? I'm sorry, but this just sounds to me like she's making excuses. It almost sounds as if she's against abortion in general, doesn't it? Since "natural" pregnancies shouldn't be disturbed? She's holding herself and her decision apart from the main point. She feels she's a special case. And yes, in many ways she is. It's not often that women terminate one of a set of twins. But her guilt is being projected upon so many others who may have made a choice for different reasons. And it doesn't sit well. Because it's not half an abortion, after all. It is a full one. One she has every right to have. But in saying this, she implies that her specific conditions hold her above the other people making that choice.

It's your choice, lady. You don't have to rationalize it. Doing so only makes you look insecure and makes you accidentally insult a lot of people. You are no worse than the rest of society, and you are no better. You are just you and that is enough.

 "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."

I was terrified, too, and if she has other children, then she would know that love doesn't work that way. But again, as I thought and thought on this topic, I discovered it doesn't matter what reasons she gives. She's just trying to assuage society. And she doesn't need to. It's her body, her choice.

 "“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,” she told me."

And there it is. Now she's not rationalizing to the readers so much as to herself. There's the issue right there. There's the reason for her other statements. This is a personal battle for her. Something we ought not forget when we speak on this topic as people who are not current going through it. Abortion can sometimes be chosen without doubt, but just as often, those who do choose it face many demons of their own making (and society's) along the way. It is hard. Hard as a philosophy and hard as a practice. I say we give everyone a break. Their body, their choice.

Reduction started so that women who had many fetuses could increase their chances of having a healthy child. Now that it's a surface choice, people are balking. Where is the ethical line? If you're pro-choice, are you really pro-choice? When does it turn? When is it too much?

"As science allows us to intervene more than ever at the beginning and the end of life, it outruns our ability to reach a new moral equilibrium. We still have to work out just how far we’re willing to go to construct the lives we want."

For me, reading this article was a really good start to try to define my true feelings on this complex issue.

Of course, there's one section that I can't argue with at all.

"Studies report enormous disruption in families with multiples, and higher levels of social isolation, exhaustion and depression in mothers of twins."

Yup. But, for me, they're totally worth it.


  1. I don't like her logic on the matter and wouldn't eliminate a twin, but I would, however, consider it if I was pregnant with quads or more... natural or otherwise. It'd have to be natural and a huge freak accident for me in the first place, though, because I'm not octomom. hahaha

  2. As someone who lost her twin sister during pregnancy, I can say that it really makes me sad that she is taking that away from her child. I totally agree that it is her choice to decide, but that was what stuck out for me the most. It is strange knowing there was another half to you but not ever being able to meet that other half, is depressing in itself, and now I wonder how I would feel towards my parents if I had found out it was their decision for me not to have my twin.

  3. definitely a loaded issue-abortion in general. this situation specifically makes me sick. fortunately for my conscience (and life!) i used listened to my gut and heart and not logic to choose life for my accidental unplanned pregnancy at 21. I do believe in choice but cannot understand how anyone can take life away from anyone else under most circumstances. why is adoption not more of a consideration? in this case it seems like a good option too.

  4. I agree with Samantha. My first thought (having twins myself, of course) was that I cannot imagine having to have the "I aborted your twin" discussion with her remaining child one day.

  5. That was my original line of thinking, too, Carla. But say all four were viable. What makes that a different quandary than two? And if you were to reduce four, would you reduce it to two or to one? And if to one, what makes that different from two? And if to two, why would two be different from four? The answer to most of this, for me anyway, has to do with how much the mother thinks she can handle. Is it more acceptable to not be able to handle four than two? And to whom? And why? It's a big mess in my head, but I fall back on choice is choice, which makes the lines of reasoning a lot easier to handle, since the only person a woman should have to answer to is herself (and her living children, which connects to the other two comments.)

  6. The quad argument would be about acceptable management of risks, to me. Twin pregnancies are higher risk than singleton, but nowhere near what a quad pregnancy is.

    I remember reading an article about this issue (I don't think it's mentioned in this one but I only have time to skim read because I should be getting X read for school!) where they said "would you rather have a boy or a girl?" and she choose which one to terminate based on gender. That made me feel deeply, deeply uncomfortable.

  7. I agree with Jexia. If I already had 5 children, as I do now, and I somehow got pregnant with 4 or more, I would want to do what was best for all of the living children and in my mind, there's extreme health risk to me if I were to carry that many babies at once. I can't put myself in the shoes of the person in the article, and it's her choice, as you said, but if reducing them by half was what I had to do (very, very early on) then I would definitely consider it... I think. I can't truly say since I've never been in that position and it's easy for me to make that call hypothetically because they're not real embryos.

  8. Yes, D, she's mentioned in an aside at the bottom. They graze over her case as the very slightest introduction to the other ethical problems involved in this, but they don't go down that path in great detail. She already had a son, they said, so she chose a daughter. It made me sad, too, but not my choice, I would guess.

  9. Please email me! I have a question about your blog! :)

  10. My oldest was supposed to be a twin and I miscarried one. (or as they call it, "vanishing twin syndrome") I feel very strongly about that as well, I feel it's wrong to terminate one twin just because you don't want two babies; especially if you've had fertility treatments! I've never had fertility treatments, but don't they make you sign something that you know there's high risk of a multiple birth?

  11. Interesting subject. If I had happened to get pregnant with twins this time, I'm not sure I would have realized this was even an option, but if I had, we would have seriously considered reduction to one. My first pregnancy was so disastrous that I would be a very, very bad candidate for carrying multiples and I think it would have definitely meant a better outcome for the remaining fetus, and for myself. Who knows what we would have actually done since the choice didn't present itself, but I can see myself in these shoes quite easily.

    I strongly believe that even this situation is still "her body, her choice" but I can see where it provides ethical considerations for others, especially moms of twins. But yes, if you can reduce to none, I don't see how reducing to one is any different, personally.

  12. Obviously she's never seen this movie:

    All serious concerns and ethical issues aside, the fact that the unborn twin could someday haunt and torment the living twin is something she should also consider.

    /insensitive comment.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...