Bioethics

Why Do Fetal Reductions Bother Pro-Choicers?

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Author Amy K. Hall Published on 08/19/2011

I made a quick comment in yesterday’s post about how reductions trouble pro-choicers not because they’re morally different from abortions, but because it’s easier to see them for what they really are. This piece in Slate by William Saletan explains why:

For some, the issue seems to be a consumer mentality in assisted reproduction. For others, it’s the deliberateness of getting pregnant, especially by IVF, without being prepared to accept the consequences. But the main problem with reduction is that it breaches a wall at the center of pro-choice psychology. It exposes the equality between the offspring we raise and the offspring we abort.

Look up any abortion-related item in Jezebel, and you’ll see the developing human referred to as a fetus or pregnancy. But when the same entity appears in a non-abortion item, it gets an upgrade. A blood test could help “women who are concerned that they may be carrying a child with Down’s Syndrome.” A TV character wonders whether she’s “capable of carrying a child to term.” Nuclear radiation in Japan “may put unborn children at risk.”

This bifurcated mindset permeates pro-choice thinking. Embryos fertilized for procreation are embryos; embryos cloned for research are “activated eggs.” A fetus you want is a baby; a fetus you don’t want is a pregnancy. Under federal law, anyone who injures or kills a “child in utero” during a violent crime gets the same punishment as if he had injured or killed “the unborn child’s mother,” but no such penalty applies to “an abortion for which the consent of the pregnant woman...has been obtained.”

Reduction destroys this distinction. It combines, in a single pregnancy, a wanted and an unwanted fetus. In the case of identical twins, even their genomes are indistinguishable. You can’t pretend that one is precious and the other is just tissue. You’re killing the same creature to which you’re dedicating your life.

[All links are from original article.]

You can try to hide what abortion is from yourself by manipulating language as much as you want (for example, by using the term “pregnancy” to refer to your child—a term that references only you, succeeding in completely eliminating the final bit of otherness that remained in the word “fetus”), but all the language in the world can’t hide the truth when you see your pregnancy’s twin sister.