Many readers have probably already read (or read about) a lengthy New York Times article, "The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy", written by Ruth Padawer about how some pregnant women make the decision to "reduce twins to a single fetus" as a way of "managing" and "controlling" one's life.
There is plenty to be said about the essay—and I'll point to a few articles that are worth reading in response—but the paragraph that caught my attention and held it for some time was near the beginning. Padawer muses:
What is it about terminating half a twin pregnancy that seems more controversial than reducing triplets to twins or aborting a single fetus? After all, the math’s the same either way: one fewer fetus. Perhaps it’s because twin reduction (unlike abortion) involves selecting one fetus over another, when either one is equally wanted. Perhaps it’s our culture’s idealized notion of twins as lifelong soul mates, two halves of one whole. Or perhaps it’s because the desire for more choices conflicts with our discomfort about meddling with ever more aspects of reproduction.
It would be disconcerting enough if Padawer had said, in one way or another, "Well, yes, this is the termination of a life, and I suppose some people have qualms about that since they think the fetus is actually a viable and living person. But that is the choice reserved for the mother" and so forth—the sort of typical talk we've come to expect of abortion activists. At least then there would be a sense, however small and lacking, that she has a sense of the moral landscape.
But Padawer doesn't even appear to be aware that such a perspective even exists; her language is so ultra-utilitarian you might think she was discussing a choice between two sweaters or items on a dinner menu: "What is it about eating a steak rather than a veggie burger that upsets some people? Is it because the burger tastes more like meat? Or because 'burger' sounds like 'booger'? Ooooh! Gross!" Good grief. If the topic weren't so deadly serious, her moral cluelessness would be downright laughable.
Thomas Peters took up this topic in an excellent post on CatholicVote.org, writing:
What made it hard, I think, to start was my complete inability to grasp the moral universe where the people described in this article are coming from. Story after story of women who, having invested so much energy and money into getting pregnant in the first place, decide to kill off one of the twins they are carrying, supposedly so they can provide the surviving twin with a higher quality of life.
Welcome to the world Roe has created, I thought. A world where children simply do not matter. A world where the only thing that matters in the end is what adults want. ...
Imagine what will happen to these children, these siblings of aborted brothers and sisters, when they grow up. Most of the parents interviewed in this story say they intend to hide their choice to kill off one of their twins from their friends and family. Shame on them. Abortion has gone on for so long because the victim never has a chance to speak. These children who have survived the abortion of their twin (or twins) have a voice already – ours.
Let’s talk about the reasons given for Coin Toss abortions. The cop-out used by almost all the parents interviewed in this article is that they choose to kill one of their children to provide a better life for the surviving twin. They’ll be able to be better parents, they say, if they have to parent less children. There’s a word to describe this, and it refers to something found at the bottom of bull’s stall.
Read his entire post, "Coin Toss Abortion? Why Our Protracted National Tolerance For Abortion Must End".
David J. Ayers, in this post on the Center for Vision and Values site, wrote:
So why would women pregnant with twins want to “minus” one? The main reasons cited in the Times article were “social” and “emotional”—not medical. Women want to avoid the stresses and deprivations of raising twins, often even construing their “choice” as an act of love that benefits both the terminated and surviving twin. As one proponent admitted, it is really about women exercising their freedom to “fashion their lives how they want.”
In the 1970s and 1980s, pro-choice activists ridiculed what they claimed were illegitimate “slippery slope” arguments made by pro-lifers about what moral horrors might be generated by an absolute right to abortion. We were told that Roe v. Wade would mainly allow freedom for the “hard choices” of desperate women; those hard choices would become increasingly rare as birth control became more effective and widely available. We now have countless women casually obtaining one abortion after another, and for all sorts of reasons. The newest reason is the “two-minus-one pregnancy.”
The slippery slope is here. And we are picking up speed.
And David French, in a short but very strong post on NRO's "The Corner", said:
What is the common thread? A desire for life on their own terms. They want children (I don’t doubt some desperately want children; especially the older women seeking expensive and sometimes painful fertility treatments), but within certain boundaries. That’s not to say there aren’t profound and intense emotions involved, and those emotions are certainly rationalized in innumerable ways, but selfishness is the heart of the matter. In fact, the very “fear” that many people feel is not the fear that they will harm their children through their own parental inadequacies but instead the fear that their children will harm them — by taking from them the life they’d always imagined.
Self-indulgence is the common thread that runs through most culture war issues. From marriage to divorce to cohabitation to abortion, the desperate desire to satisfy the longings of our heart collides with a Judeo-Christian moral tradition that calls for children to be raised in faithful, married mother-father households. And so we make endless accommodations to our desires — protecting as a legal right the quest to satisfy every personal whim — and our culture cracks and crumbles.
The paradox of the human condition is that those who seek to find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life will find it. In other words, the very act of self-denial enriches your life while selfishness destroys the soul.
Finally, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, in a piece titled, "The Failure of Liberal Bioethics", states:
The liberal camp includes many thinkers I admire, and it has produced some of the more eloquent reflections on biotechnology’s implications for human affairs. But at least in the United States, the liberal effort to (as the Goodman of 1980 put it) “monitor” and “debate” and “control” the development of reproductive technologies has been extraordinarily ineffectual. From embryo experimentation to selective reduction to the eugenic uses of abortion, liberals always promise to draw lines and then never actually manage to draw them. Like Dr. Evans, they find reasons to embrace each new technological leap while promising to resist the next one — and then time passes, science marches on, and they find reasons why the next moral compromise, too, must be accepted for the greater good, or at least tolerated in the name of privacy and choice. You can always count on them to worry, often perceptively, about hypothetical evils, potential slips down the bioethical slope. But they’re either ineffectual or accommodating once an evil actually arrives. Tomorrow, they always say — tomorrow, we’ll draw the line. But tomorrow never comes.
One of the most revealing passages in Padawer's article has to do with one of the Most Sacred Words of the First Church of Secular Liberalism: "choice":
Sheena Iyengar, a social psychologist at Columbia Business School and the author of “The Art of Choosing,” suggests that limitless choice is a particularly American ideal. In a talk at a TED conference last year in Oxford, England, Iyengar said that “the story upon which the American dream depends is the story of limitless choice. This narrative promises so much: freedom, happiness, success. It lays the world at your feet and says you can have anything, everything.” Nevertheless, she subsequently told me, “we are in the midst of a choice revolution right now, where we’re trying to figure out where the ethical boundaries should be.”
Oooh, a "choice revolution". Huh? Are these people capable of saying anything at all with directness, clarity, and moral certainty? (That's essentially a rhetorical question, as I know the answer. Hint: it isn't "Yes".) Perhaps I'm naive, but I think most Americans over the course of this country's history have understood that there is no such thing as "limitless choice", and that expressions such as "you can do whatever you set your mind to do" or "The sky is the limit" come with some logical, commonsense qualifiers, many of them explicitly moral. Most people, for example, don't believe that committing murder, stealing, or lying are part of an American-styled "limitless choice" package—unless, I suppose, you believe that killing babies, stealing their lives, and lying about what really happened is "ethical".
On the plus side, I suppose I should be mildly pleased that a social psychologist has managed to put the words "ethical" and "boundaries" together. Hopefully they stay together, with neither being "reduced" before they are able to see the light of day.
• "Pro-choice" vs. "Pro-abortion"? Or, "Pro-choice" = "Pro-abortion"? (Oct. 9, 2008)