When is it OK to reduce the number of fetuses from two to one? In my book: Never. I’m no doctor and I suppose it’s possible there are times when pregnancy really does pose a real risk to the mother’s life. But I’ve never heard of a case where a twin pregnancy was super duper dangerous while a singleton pregnancy wasn’t.
Like so many other couples these days, the Toronto-area business executive and her husband put off having children for years as they built successful careers. Both parents were in their 40s — and their first son just over a year old — when this spring the woman became pregnant a second time. Seven weeks in, an ultrasound revealed the Burlington, Ont., resident was carrying twins. “It came as a complete shock,” said the mother, who asked not to be named. “We’re both career people. If we were going to have three children two years apart, someone else was going to be raising our kids. … All of a sudden our lives as we know them and as we like to lead them, are not going to happen.”
She soon discovered another option: Doctors could “reduce” the pregnancy from twins to a singleton through a little-known procedure that eliminates selected fetuses — and has become increasingly common in the past two decades amid a boom in the number of multiple pregnancies.
Selective reductions are typically carried out for women pregnant with triplets or greater, where the risk of harm or death climbs sharply with each additional fetus. The Ontario couple is part of what some experts say is a growing demand for reducing twins to one, fuelled more by socio-economic imperatives than medical need, and raising vexing new ethical questions.
I’m willing to believe the questions are vexing, but they’re not new. At bottom it’s the same question as ever: Who gives you the right to decide which baby gets to be born? And according to what rationale? We’re not talking about somehow having those fetuses vapourize into a puff of lilac-scented smoke. These human beings are being killed for convenience’s sake.
Fetal reductions are most commonly conducted by inserting an ultrasound-guided needle through the mother’s abdomen and into the uterus, injecting a potassium chloride solution into the chosen fetus or fetuses, stopping their hearts. They are typically performed between the ninth and 12th week, often with the most accessible or smallest fetuses marked for reduction, unless one is abnormal.
…unless one is abnormal. Of course.by