Life Issues in the News

As you might imagine, I try to keep abreast of pro-life issues that wander into the news. Two articles of note popped up this week. The first I found through the Facebook profile of an acquaintance of mine whose baby is due today, actually. The second I found through another friend who has two children, a boy and a girl. Both made me think a little more about the perspective of most of the United States on family, life, and pregnancy.

I first heard the term “selective reduction” when I read about it in a WashPo Magazine article in 2007, “Too Much to Carry.” It described a doctor treating a young Hispanic woman who was pregnant with triplets through IVF. They were observing an ultrasound of all three babies, labeled by letter, and trying to determine which of them would receive the saline injection. I remember my heart breaking when the mother asked, “It can’t be three?” Her own mother refused to let her keep all the babies, calling it one of the “unpleasant things” one “must” do to have a family. The one easiest for the doctor to access was aborted. No magazine article has ever made me cry before. That one did.

photo by Erin Ryan

This past week, a feature article in the NYT Magazine, “The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy” detailed a newer trend in selective reduction: reducing twins to single births. I’m even more heartbroken and horrified. In all of the cases detailed in the article, women simply refused to have twins (most conceived artificially). Their reasons included being over 40, already having a child of the gender of one of the twins, and in the case of a lesbian couple, both partners trying to conceive artificially and miscarrying or reducing in various combinations. A doctor quoted in the article is noted for initially resisting reductions below twins, but then doing a complete reversal on his own statements as his patients aged. Nothing else had changed. Honestly, since abortion laws permit you to terminate a pregnancy at any point, this new development makes perfect sense. But, as Jennifer Fulwiler points out in the National Catholic Register, why is it that no one thinks mourning a miscarriage is silly, but regretting an abortion somehow is?

Finally, I read a WashPo Magazine article and the follow-up Web chat of a family in Rockville, Maryland, with eleven children ages 1 to 12. It was one of the most balanced big-family articles I’ve ever read. The mom noted that they family does not ask for help from anyone beyond carpools to sports practices, but people give it anyway: meals during illnesses, clothes at various times. That’s not “taking charity,” as one chat participant claimed, but accepting a gift. She also realistically admitted that, in the future, Catholic school may simply not be financially feasible, but they’ll cross that bridge when they come to it. She and her husband have a system that works. The chat participants brought up the usual arguments of the parents’ selfishness and large carbon footprint, but she replied graciously. In general, the article and chat reinforced the common implication I’ve found that the only acceptable way to have a family is to do whatever you can to get one of each gender, and maybe another, and then you must stop.

In the end, laws and science and changes in the medical field will never change real people’s choices and desires. Only hearts will. Change hearts, change the world.



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I was just thinking about the “carbon footprint” thing a bit ago. It occurred to me that it’s pretty hypocritical for people to point the finger at big families, since big families are forced to use resources very carefully, and tend to see riches in each other rather than in things. We have a “big” family of 3 plus 1 on the way and we put out less than half the weekly trash that our neighbors do, some of whom have 3 kids, some of whom have no kids at home at all. We don’t buy things, we don’t go out to eat, we don’t consume. So calling us the drain on the environment strikes really false.

    Hear, hear, Kathleen. Didn’t you post about that recently, in the one about your parents’ and grandparents’ big family cars? Having lived with four housemates, then five, and now by myself, I miss the built-in frugality that can (but doesn’t always) come with big family life.

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