Is it wrong to reduce twin pregnancies?

This week’s New York Times Magazine ran a piece about the growing trend of twin pregnancy reductions — people choosing to reduce a twin pregnancy to a singleton pregnancy, not because of known health risks or fetal abnormalities, but because they just don’t want twins.

Holy controversy, right? But the article poses an interesting question: “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.”

I never wanted or hoped for twins — even when it was clear that we were going to have difficulty getting pregnant. When we found out I was pregnant with two, I was shocked. (Even with the fertility drugs I was taking, my body still was loathe to ovulate. ) And I wasn’t terribly happy about the news. In fact, I was terrified.

It makes me shudder  to admit this now, knowing and loving my girls as I do, but there even were times right at the beginning when I thought it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if one of the fetuses didn’t make it, as very frequently happens with twins in the first trimester. (“Vanishing twin syndrome”)

But it never once occurred to us to reduce the pregnancy. Whereas I think if I’d conceived triplets — and definitely quads or more — we would have. Not that it would have been an easy decision, or one we wouldn’t have had moral qualms about. We would not have done it lightly. But for the sake of my health and the babies’ health, if nothing else, it would have seemed like the way to go.

With our twin fetuses, though, even as disappointed / apprehensive as I initially was, I would not have been able to morally justify “terminating” one of them. We’d done fertility, we’d taken our chances, and we got what we got. We were grateful. (And, of course, now, with two daughters that I know and love deeply, the thought of having terminated one of them is just abhorrent.)

It was, naturally, difficult not to project my feelings and experiences as a mother of twins onto the women I read about in the article. (Who, let’s remember, weren’t mothers of twins when they made their decisions; they were women carrying two fetuses). I had a hard time sympathizing with their decisions. I found it especially difficult to understand how people who entered willingly into fertility treatments  could justify reducing a twin pregnancy. To me, that’s one of the chances you take. And, assuming it’s not a major risk to your health or the children’s, then you should go ahead and have those two babies.

On the other hand, I haven’t walked in any of those women’s shoes. I haven’t talked with them about their decisions. I don’t know who they are, or what demons they wrestle with. I don’t know what else is going on in their lives. And I am pro-choice, which means I believe in women making their own decisions in reproductive matters, even if I might find the choices they make repugnant.

So while I may feel, on a gut level, that what they did was wrong, I’m not going to jump on the condemnation train as most of the commenters over at the NYT have. (And I am most definitely disgusted by the “fertility treatments should be outlawed” and “why don’t these people just adopt” comments. Arggggh.)

I don’t know. Maybe I’m too forgiving. A wishy-washy bleeding heart. Or maybe it’s the fiction writer in me, but when it comes to complex moral/ethical situations like this, I just can’t bring myself to make a one-size-fits-all moral judgement. It has to be case by case.

Your thoughts? (Please keep it respectful.)


P.S. — Answers to last week’s Quiz: 1.)C or E 2.)E     3.) a-3, b-1, c-2, d-4     4.)E    5.) a- Elsa, b-Clio, c-Elsa, d-Clio, e-Elsa, f-Clio, g-Both  6.) E: the memoir title is DOUBLED OVER.

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