"Reduction" Goes Beyond Meddling to Murder

By Albert Mohler

"There are demands worldwide for a procedure to reduce twins to a single pregnancy and it has grown steadily. The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy is one of the most twisted thinking that justifies the killing of the unborn, and the people opting for this procedure try to evade moral responsibility by calling the procedure a “reduction.” But the procedure so dishonestly called “reduction” is really not about mere “meddling.” It is murder!" --Article Quote

Euphemisms are the refuge of moral cowardice, and no euphemism is so cowardly or so deadly as “reduction” — a word that sounds like math, but really means murder. The August 14, 2011 edition of The New York Times Magazine makes this fact clear in its cover story, “The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy.”

Reporter Ruth Padawer first takes her readers into the examination room of an obstetrician who is about to abort one of two fetuses within the womb of a woman identified as “Jenny.” Padawer writes:

As Jenny lay on the obstetrician’s examination table, she was grateful that the ultrasound tech had turned off the overhead screen. She didn’t want to see the two shadows floating inside her. Since making her decision, she had tried hard not to think about them, though she could often think of little else. She was 45 and pregnant after six years of fertility bills, ovulation injections, donor eggs and disappointment — and yet here she was, 14 weeks into her pregnancy, choosing to extinguish one of two healthy fetuses, almost as if having half an abortion. As the doctor inserted the needle into Jenny’s abdomen, aiming at one of the fetuses, Jenny tried not to flinch, caught between intense relief and intense guilt.

Of course, Jenny was not “having half an abortion,” for she was aborting a baby who was just as alive as his or her twin. The “reduction” of multiple pregnancies is now part of the practice of obstetrics, though largely kept from public view. Ruth Padawer explains that the demand for reductions is driven by advances in reproductive technologies and the reluctance of many women to accept a multiple pregnancy. Some of the most widely-used fertility drugs increase the likelihood of a multiple pregnancy, as does the usual process of IVF procedures.

The procedure was first proposed as a means of reducing the risk of having three or more babies in a single pregnancy. In more recent years, the demand to reduce twins to a single pregnancy has grown steadily. At one New York City medical center, over half of all reduction procedures were to reduce twins to a single pregnancy. Padawer’s report is largely about that phenomenon, for the reduction of a pregnancy from twins to a single baby is not about increasing the odds of a healthy delivery, but about the ominous rise of what amounts to personal preference.

Jenny makes this clear. She explains that she had conceived through IVF and an egg donor. Had the pregnancy occurred naturally, she said, “I wouldn’t have reduced this pregnancy, because you feel like if there’s a natural order, then you don’t want to disturb it.” Nevertheless, “The pregnancy was all so consumerish to begin with, and this became yet another thing we could control.”

Those words are amazingly revealing. Those who have tried to justify any and all means of controlling reproduction must face squarely the fact that they have created what amounts to a consumer market for babies — and customers eventually find someone to provide what they demand. When it comes to human life, the stage is set for tragedy.

As Ruth Padawer reports, obstetricians were at first reluctant to reduce twins to a single pregnancy on moral grounds, and many doctors who perform reductions refuse to reduce below twins. But the practice is growing, reflecting a shift in medical practice. She profiles Dr. Mark Evans, who at first refused to reduce twins on moral grounds. In 1988 he co-authored ethical guidelines for reducing pregnancies that declared reductions below twins to be unethical. Evans wrote that doctors should not allow themselves to become “technicians to our patients’ desires.”

And yet, in 2004 Dr. Evans reversed his position on the issue. Padawer explains his rationale:

For one thing, as more women in their 40s and 50s became pregnant (often thanks to donor eggs), they pushed for two-to-one reductions for social reasons. Evans understood why these women didn’t want to be in their 60s worrying about two tempestuous teenagers or two college-tuition bills. He noted that many of the women were in second marriages, and while they wanted to create a child with their new spouse, they did not want two, especially if they had children from a previous marriage. Others had deferred child rearing for careers or education, or were single women tired of waiting for the right partner. Whatever the particulars, these patients concluded that they lacked the resources to deal with the chaos, stereophonic screaming and exhaustion of raising twins.

Note carefully that the justification offered for killing an unborn baby is clearly identified as “social reasons.” The medical rationale he cited cannot be taken seriously, even as he cites “recent studies” that “revealed that the risks of twin pregnancies were greater than previously thought.” As this article makes abundantly clear, the main risk of a twin pregnancy these days is the risk that one of the twins will be intentionally aborted.

“Ethics,” Dr. Evans told Padawer, “evolve with technology.” That is a foundation for murderous medical ethics. The Culture of Death has worked its way into the logic of modern medical ethics to the extent that these obstetricians justify killing healthy babies just because the parents do not want the burden of twins.

Padawer allows many of the mothers seeking reductions to speak of their intentions without any effort to filter their language. One mother said she felt like her triple pregnancy “was a monster.” She eventually found Dr. Evans, who reduced her pregnancy to a single baby. Padawer candidly reports that some women use reductions to choose the sex of their baby. “Until the last decade, most doctors refused even to broach that question,” she reports, “but that ethical demarcation has eroded, as ever more patients lobby for that option and doctors discover that plenty opt for girls.”

In other words, sex-selection abortions would be unethical only if the demand for either sex was out of balance?

To her credit, Ruth Padawer points to the growing consumer market for babies as the root issue. She writes:

We’ve come to believe that the improvements are not only our due but also our responsibility. Just look at the revolution in attitudes toward selecting egg or sperm donors. In the 1970s, when sperm donation took off, most clients were married women with infertile husbands; many couples didn’t want to know about the source of the donation. Today patients in the United States can choose 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.

“The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy” is one of the most significant articles of recent years. With chilling and unflinching candor, Ruth Padawer virtually forces her readers to see the twisted thinking that justifies the killing of the unborn, and then she tries to evade moral responsibility by calling the procedure a “reduction.”

There is a story behind this story, of course. The intersection where modern reproductive technologies and legal abortion meet is now a deadly place for many unborn babies. In the name of personal preference and for “social reasons,” some women now demand that their multiple babies be aborted so that they will have only the one baby they want.

Padawer says that many Americans are uneasy about this knowledge, perhaps “because the desire for more choices conflicts with our discomfort about meddling with ever more aspects of reproduction.”

But the procedure so dishonestly called “reduction” is really not about mere “meddling.” It is murder.


The Illusion of Freedom Separated from Moral Virtue

By Raymond L. Dennehy
University of San Francisco
Ignatius Insight

(The following are excerpts from Dennehy's essay. Read the complete text of his essay here.)

Liberal democracy cannot survive unless a monistic virtue ethics permeates its culture. A nation whose members lack moral virtue cannot sustain its commitment to freedom and equality for all.

What about a nation whose inhabitants are allowed the freedom to do everything they may wish to do as long as they do not violate anyone else's personal freedom, but do not realize that they have been programmed to desire only what their government determines them to desire? This raises the question: "Is freedom the personal state of being objectively unrestrained or the subjective state of not being aware of being restrained?"

Is it within the realm of plausibility that the majority of members of a political society could think they are free when, in fact, they are not? The answer is "Yes." The principal cause would be the attempt to preserve a freedom that is separated from moral virtue. But "would be" is the subjunctive mood and, thus, belongs to the realm of the merely possible. It is undeniably possible for a population to suffer from the illusion of being free, but the real cannot be inferred from the possible. Agreed. But the reality is already here, evident from practices ratified by legislatures and popular vote, as well as ratified by the courts as constitutionally protected. Each counts as an example of the freedom to "choose one's own ends." In terms of the public vs. private model, they are alleged to belong in the sphere of private behavior insofar as they pertain to actions that do not violate the rights of others. One relevant example is the rapid decline of public and private support for objective and substantive ethics in favor of relativism.

There are two clashing concepts of liberty: negative liberty and positive liberty. Simply expressed, negative liberty holds that freedom is the absence of external restraint, while positive liberty holds that freedom is the opportunity to do what is worth doing.

The argument against a morally neutral conception of freedom collides not only with a fundamental premise of liberal democracy, but also, it seems, with a central tenet of what is accepted as the public philosophy. Michael Sandel succinctly sets forth that tenet:

"The central idea of the public philosophy by which we live is that freedom consists in our capacity to choose our ends for ourselves. Politics should not try to form the character or cultivate the virtue of its citizens, for to do so would be to "legislate morality." Government should not affirm, through its policies or laws, any particular conception of the good life; instead it should provide a neutral framework of rights within which people can choose their own values and ends."

Both conservative and liberal politics are in agreement that "freedom consists in the capacity of people to choose their own ends." The disagreement occurs when one asks whether any specific traits of character are needed for an individual's exercise of freedom, and who has the responsibility for overseeing the acquisition of those character traits. Since republican political theory sees the government's role as that of preparing people to acquire the virtues needed for sharing in self-rule, deliberating with other citizens about what the common good is and how it is to be realized, it entertains a formative conception of politics that demands its involvement with the moral virtues and chosen goals of its citizens. In contrast, the past decades have witnessed the greater influence of the procedural politics of liberal political theory, with its commitment to ensuring equal justice for all without any officially expressed concern for its citizens' personal moral state. The differences between the two theories are real, but they are not what they seem. Both denounce the government's unjustified interference in the lives of its citizens, but differ on what constitutes the injustice.

If positive freedom, especially the metaphysical version, poses threats to a people's freedom to choose their own ends by imposing the state or a higher self as one's true self, so that one is deluded into believing that by obeying the law, one is really obeying oneself, negative freedom hardly offers a better prospect. The possibility of a nation enslaved in their respective and collective actions by their vices, but believing they act freely because they do what they wish, is as disturbing as it is plausible.

The illusion reveals itself in the inconsistency between the criticism of objective moral norms as the fulfillment of personal freedom and the fact that living and acting without moral virtue inevitably yokes one's will to one and the same object of desire. The standard criticism of positive freedom is that the demand that one act according to putative objective standards in order to be free is to confuse freedom with things, which, however laudable--truth, justice, beauty, goodness, or the law--are not what freedom is. The criticism goes on to say that the confusion is dangerous, since it can delude a population into believing that their adherence to those kinds of lofty standards makes them free when it fact it allows an oppressive regime to control their lives.

But a characteristic of the lack of virtue, and surely of the state of vice, is the will's enslavement to a specific object of desire. So, despite insisting that to be free, the individual must have before him a range of options, the lack of virtue produces the opposite: prospective choices are inevitably evaluated in terms of their relation to the principal object of one's vice.

Virtue ethics offers the solution to the extent that it furnishes the standard for action based on understanding and choice unhampered by un-disciplined passions and appetites. For the virtuous person, freedom is negative in the truest sense insofar as he or she enjoys a freedom from both external restraints and the inner restraints of vice. That is the route to human flourishing, both for self-fulfillment and preparation for citizenship. The argument for a virtuous society must not be allowed to go begging. Thomas Aquinas observed that after one loses the virtue of chastity, thereby succumbing to the vice of lust, the next virtue to be lost is justice, the obligation to pay each his due. That is because vice, being a malignancy, metastasizes.

The enduring ideal is a democracy that confers the widest latitude for personal freedom on its members, the vast majority of whom, including elected officials and judges, have characters shaped by a monistic virtue ethics. The crucial question is, who has the responsibility of inculcating ethics in society? The cackling of the sacred geese warned ancient Rome of impending danger. Where are our geese?


WYD (Whacked Youth Day) in London



See beyond physical eyes -- discern with spiritual eyesight; for in the likeness of the dark spirit this thing has happened today, so shall it be like at an inappropriate time to come. On that day, physically, things are not exactly the same, yet the spirit behind it all is the same dark spirit as today.

Therefore to those who are able to see with the eyes of the Spirit, there is yet enough time to strengthen yourselves and your brothers in the Lord, for your strength is in His might.

[Ephesians 6:11-18]

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world's rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Therefore, put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand.

Stand therefore, having the utility belt of truth buckled around your waist, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having fitted your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; above all, taking up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; with all prayer and requests, praying at all times in the Spirit, and being watchful to this end in all perseverance and requests for all the holy ones.