?Pregnancy Reductions?: The New Frontier of Death

Aug 27th, 2011 | By | Category: Ethics, Featured Issues

New York Times writer, Ruth Padawer, recently published one of the most chilling and shocking articles I have read in some time.  Entitled, ?Unnatural Selection,? the article uses a phrase new to me, ?pregnancy reductions.?  A seemingly neutral term, it actually refers to a frequently used procedure of eliminating one of the twins growing in a woman?s womb.

  • First, a few points of historical development that have led to this procedure.  Reproductive medicine has empowered women (and their husbands, or partners if lesbians) to make major decisions about the life growing in their womb.  With fertility drugs, multiple fetuses are often created.  To seemingly lower the risks to both mothers and their babies they took home, doctors began terminating all but two or three fetuses.  Listen to this instructive sentence from Padawer?s article:  ?With that, pregnancy reduction shifted from a medical decision to an ethical dilemma.  As science allows us to intervene more than ever at the beginning and the end of life, it outruns our ability to reach a new moral equilibrium.  We still have to work out just how far we?re willing to go to construct the lives we want.?

?To construct the lives we want!?  The focus is on what the autonomous person wants not the value or worth of the child?s life!  Such a perspective is both shocking and truly astonishing!  The chilling nature of the decision women face with ?twin reduction? is that it involves selecting one fetus to live over another.  It is also instructive to note the language Padawer uses in her article:  ?Twin reduction? and ?singleton,? the name given to the surviving fetus after the other fetus is killed.  How actually does this ?twin reduction? occur?  Costing about $6,500, the procedure, Padawer reports, is usually performed around Week 12 of a pregnancy, involving a fatal injection of potassium chloride into the fetal chest.  The dead fetus shrivels over time and remains in the womb until delivery.  Why, according to Padawer, do women seek ?twin reduction??  Her argument is that for most women ?social reasons? define the decision:  ?Whatever the particulars, these patients concluded that they lacked the resources to deal with the chaos, stereophonic screaming and exhaustion of raising twins.?  Further, Padawer argues, ?twin reduction? is another example of science empowering women to control their lives:  ?Today patients in the United States can choose [sperm or egg] donors based not only on their height, hair color and ethnicity but also on their academic and athletic accomplishments, temperament, hairiness and even the length of a donor?s eyelashes.?  How then is the choice of which fetus to kill made in a ?twin reduction??  Padawer writes that ?if both appear healthy (which is typical of twins), doctors aim for whichever one is easier to reach.  If both are equally accessible, the decision of who lives and who dies is random.  To the relief of the patients, it is the doctor who chooses?with one exception.  If the fetuses are of different sexes, some doctors ask the patients which one they want to keep.?  She concludes, ?As with reducing two healthy fetuses to one, the underlying premise is the same:  this is not what I want for my life.?  The desires of the woman trump the right of the child to live!!

  • Second, how then should we think about this ghastly development in reproductive medicine?  God?s view of prenatal life is vastly different than the doctors who perform ?twin reductions.?  God?s revelation in the Bible has spoken to this issue.  A thorough examination of His Word reveals that God views life in the womb as of infinite value and in need of protection.  The challenge is that most areas of the culture–law, politics, many theologians and religious leaders–refuse to heed God?s clear teaching on this issue of prenatal life.  A cluster of verses in the Bible clearly establish God?s view of prenatal life:
  1. Exodus 21:22-24–Whatever these difficult verses exactly mean, God views life in the womb as of great value.  Whether by accident or by intent, to cause a woman to miscarry demands accountability on the part of the one who caused it.  The Law did not treat the fetus frivolously.
  2. Isaiah 49:1, 5–Referring to Messiah, God called Him for his mission from the womb.

Life that is prenatal is precious to God.

  1. Jeremiah 1:5 and Luke 1:15–As with Isaiah, God viewed Jeremiah and John the Baptist from the womb as of infinite value.  He even filled John with the Holy Spirit when he was in Elizabeth?s womb.
  2. No other passage deals with the question of prenatal life so powerfully and conclusively than Psalm 139.  In this wonderful psalm, David reviews four phenomenal attributes of God–His omniscience, His omnipresence, His omnipotence and His holiness.  In reviewing God?s omnipotence, David reviews God?s power in creating life which he compares to God ?weaving? him in his mother?s womb.  God made his ?frame,? his skeleton.  Then, in verse 16, he writes, ?Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance…?  Undoubtedly, David is referring to the embryo.  If correct, then the divine perspective on life is that it begins at conception.  So awesome is God?s omniscience and His omnipotence, that he knew all about David even when he was an embryo!  This then is God?s view of prenatal life and His judgment on ?twin reduction.?  It is not a ?reduction;? it is a murder!

See James P. Eckman, Biblical Ethics, pp. 28-31 and Ruth Pedawar in the New York Times Magazine (14 August 2011), pp. 22-27. PRINT PDF

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2 Comments to “?Pregnancy Reductions?: The New Frontier of Death”

  1. Sarah says:

    “God views life in the womb as of great value.”
    I agree. This is an extremely evil act under the guise of ‘science’ and ‘social reasons’.

  2. Pregnancy is the best gift god ever can give to woman and men’s must be thankful to all the women. They should respect the ladies rather than creating problems for them.