Abortion and the “ghost in the room”

Selective reduction is the latest spin on the abortion conversation—but we’re still talking about the death of a child, each and every time.

The New York Times Magazine story “The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy” by Ruth Padawer details anguish and heartache for parents who choose to abort children they chose to conceive through reproductive technology. The reporter notes dryly this happens because, “doctors often generate more fetuses than they intend.”

This is truly an uncharted frontier—a dilemma affecting only 101 women last year at Mount Sinai Medical Center, one of the largest providers of the procedure (compare to over 3000 abortions performed daily in the US). This is the upper economic datapoint–the rationale why women of means “need” abortion, just like women of poverty “need” abortion. In this case, the dilemma seems to be for families who can afford to “design their future” with any and all means possible–and who are now feeling pressure to kill to “build” the right size family. I can only imagine what these mothers must have felt to read of the doctors injecting the lethal dose directly into their child’s heart so they can achieve the perfect family. How can such self-inflicted harm ever lead to peace?

ABC News also has a story this week featuring a mother of triplets who chose not to selectively reduce.

Taken together these reports and the people quoted expose and reveal the larger problems of abortion. And this procedure is placing women at risk in at least the following ways:

Mental Health:
ABC News quotes an expert from MOST a national support group for families of triplets or more noting that women who have had challenges getting pregnant are already at an increased risk for post-partum depression, so women undergoing reduction may be more likely to suffer psychologically after the remaining child is born.

The Centers for Disease Control says women who experience the death of a child before birth due to miscarriage or stillbirth is at greater risk for post-partum depression—how can this not also be the case when a pre-born child is aborted? In medical terms a miscarriage is also known as spontaneous abortion vs. elective procedures such as a D & C or prescription med methods. But the net resulting loss of the child is the common experience.

This story of depressed and distressed parents is a huge blessing—it finally exposes the truth that abortion leads to parental grief, something the American Psychological Association has yet to uncover among the parents of over 50 million children who have died due to elective abortion (see NEJM Jan 2011 as reported in HealthDay). In fact the CDC takes the problem so seriously their information on depression among women of reproductive age and postpartum depression includes this quote: “If you are thinking about harming yourself, or know someone who is, tell someone who can help immediately…” followed by instructions to call 911 or a Suicide Hotline.

The moral questions to me are relational. How do we treat one another and what is the right way—the kind and empathetic way to treat one another, vs. the wrong way, the self-centered and uncaring way.

Here’s a quote from Dr. Ross the mom of triplets who did not choose to reduce, “At the time parents make the decision to reduce, they don’t know what the future holds. Some of the families go on to experience a lot of grief. At every milestone for the child they decided to keep, there is this ghost in the room this feeling that there should have been [emphasis added] two of them.”

Reduction is child loss, and the parents will at some point be forced to come to grips with the fact that they signed the death certificate—and that it was something that they should not have done, because it was not morally right or justifiable.

From the NY Times: “That idea—that one’s gone and one’s here, it almost like playing God. I mean, who are we to choose?” This quote comes from a woman in a homosexual relationship who was so isolated by the experience that she refused to even give an initial for the story. The women told no one in their families, no colleagues, and only one friend.

People who are in favor of making this procedure available to women need to ask—why are the ones who have experienced it so silent?

Stigma cannot be the answer. These women have already withstood the societal storm of same-sex partnership and adoption. I believe the answer is that we know in our hearts that every abortion is rivalry with God, and we are ashamed. Somehow the pro-choice lobby has convinced people that shamelessness is better than being ashamed before God. This is their idea, not God’s.

I thank God this is not the end of the story! But every true case of redemption in Jesus Christ after abortion begins with our owning up to our shame so that He can remove it and give us a new life in exchange for His life laid down on the Cross.

Ethical/Deceptive Rhetoric:
The use of the phrase “women building families” is used as a euphemism for destroying an existing child.

The NY Times also uses the phrase “Constructing the lives we want” to mean “eliminating the children we don’t want.”

Family Dynamics:
Families do not operate based solely on our whims as parents, as much as we may want them to. Imagine what such thinking does to the surviving children who grow up in these families. The pressure for perfection and performance must be off the chart. I wrongly chose abortion as a young woman under pressure to preserve my social and economic future, and later went on to marry and have children. I finally came to grips with the abortion, and shortly afterwards one of my teenaged kids learned about it secondhand. It was extremely painful for this child to know that her mother had done this to one of her own children. And it has taken many years for our relationship to recover. The surviving siblings are always affected by a parent’s abortion. Always.

Gynecologist/politician Ron Paul makes the point that, as a physician he has been trained to bring life into the world, and if he does harm to the baby, he gets sued. He rightly concluded that the baby is alive and has rights.

DISCLAIMER: This is not an endorsement of Ron Paul or any candidate. His appearance on The View in December 2007 is however a priceless archive of the shallow and hollow arguments of those who continue to support abortion while objecting that they are not “for” it. And I admire his demeanor as he puts away the distinction between a one-month-old fetus and an 8-month-old 8 pound baby. In response to his question about destroying the 8-month-old fetus, Joy Behar declares, “that would be murder!”


Even abortion supporters are against selective reduction

William Saletan reporting at Slate writes, “Across the pro-choice blogosphere, including Slate, the [NY Times] article has provoked discomfort. RH Reality Check, a website dedicated to abortion rights, ran an item voicing qualms with one woman’s reduction decision. Jezebel, another pro-choice site, acknowledged the “complicated ethics” of reduction. Frances Kissling, a longtime reproductive rights leader, wrote a Washington Post essay asking whether women should forgo fertility treatment rather than risk a twin pregnancy they’d end up half-aborting.”

Well, yes. They should. If this procedure was not allowed no one would be considering it. It is folly to choose something, anything, simply because we can.

Bioethicist Josephine Johnston is quoted by the NY Times sounding a clear warning: “In an environment where you can have so many choices, you own the outcome in a way that you wouldn’t have, had the choices not existed. If reduction didn’t exist, women wouldn’t worry about that by not reducing, they’re at fault for not making life more difficult for their existing kids. In an odd way, having more choices actually places a much greater burden on women, because we become the creators of our circumstances, whereas, before, we were the recipients of them. I’m not saying we should have less choices; I’m saying choices are not always as liberating and empowering as we hope they will be.”

I hope we take her conclusions to heart–if not for our children, at least for our own well-being.




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