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Posted at 01:09 PM ET, 08/29/2011

No consensus on ethics of “reducing” twins

The recent post on the trend of twin “reduction” drew enough strong reactions to reinforce the notion that medical advances in the fertility and childbirth arena are outpacing our ability to reach a consensus on ethical boundaries. So many readers offered unique perspectives in comments and e-mails after the post “Is it okay to reduce a pregnancy from two to one?” was published that I wanted to share a few of them.

The majority of readers condemned the legal practice of aborting, or “reducing,” one embryo in a healthy pregnancy that Ruth Padawer had first written about in The New York Times. As Padawer had predicted, many readers who support abortion rights found the idea of choosing one twin over the other unacceptable.

There were a minority of readers, however, who suggested that carrying and raising twins is much more arduous than people think. These readers said that the parents making this difficult choice should not be judged too harshly. As one mother of twins told me, she admired the “foresight,” of parents who understood how much more difficult their lives would be with twins.

Some of the comments came from people with very unique perspectives on the subjects: parents of twins; a mother whose pregnancy began as twins; a would-be twin herself.

Below are a selection:

Giulia L. Parli of Warrenton wrote, “I couldn’t help but feel angered that parents would even consider aborting one healthy twin fetus. I hope that those parents realize that there are people in the world who would give anything to have their twin alive with them.

My parents had some trouble having children, and when my mother finally got pregnant, the doctor told my parents they were going to have twins. However, early in the pregnancy my mother lost my twin. I am an only child, and though I am extremely grateful to have my family, it is painful to know that I could have had a brother or sister.

I understand that perhaps there are medical reasons for aborting one twin. But to do such a thing simply because the parents are picky about how many children they want, just breaks my heart. It can be scarring for both the living child and for the parents. If anyone that is on the brink of making a decision about aborting a twin is reading my letter, I hope they realize the effects and the consequences of such an action.”

A women who commented on the Web site described the unexpected feelings during her own pregnancy:

“I became pregnant with twins on my second round of IVF. I was TERRIFIED and seriously considered seeking the selective reduction. My first pregnancy had been fairly horrible, with my daughter nearly coming out at the (non-viable) age of 23 weeks.

Besides the fact I doubted I could handle twins, the thought of increasing the risk of pre-term labor even further than it already was...well, it didn’t make sense to me.

As it happens, the second embryo died at about 7 weeks, so the point became moot. But I can’t begin to describe the sense of relief.”

Among the many comments from those who found the practice abhorrent, this note was especially bracing:

“Just because parents think they’re doing something good for their families does not mean they actually are, and it does not mean we need to respect their choices. People who carry out honor killings, for example, likewise think they’re acting for the good of their family. But that practice is utterly unjustifiable. You’ll never find me engaged in “nuanced and respectful conversation” about honor killings -- they’re wrong. I’m right. Period. Something of the same moral relativism is going on here.”

Legally, should twin “reduction” be treated like abortion in this country? Or is it a different practice altogether?

By  |  01:09 PM ET, 08/29/2011

 
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