The Pro-Choice Movement’s Problem with “Selective Reduction”

Slate writer William Saletan is committedly “pro-choice”, but because he has often publicly questioned the tenets that his movement holds to be sacrosanct, not everyone on his side of the abortion debate is a fan of his.

In his latest column, posted today, he tackles “The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy” article in the recent New York Times Magazine (which I wrote about here), asking straightforwardly in the subtitle: “Why do ‘reductions’ of twin pregnancies trouble pro-choicers?”

Saletan writes:

Look up any abortion-related item in [the pro-choice site] 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.

Sophie’s Choice is a common theme in abortion decisions. To give your existing kids the attention and resources they’ll need, you have to terminate your fetus. This rationale fits the pro-choice calculus that born children are worth more than unborn ones. But in the case of reduction, the child for whom you’re reserving attention and resources is equally unborn. She is, and will always be, a living reminder of what you exterminated.

This is what tortures pro-choicers.

There is no way for supporters of legal abortion to say there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a woman choosing to have a “selective reduction” abortion without sounding ghastly.

That’s why it’s interesting to note that there’s nary a mention of the NYT Magazine article on either Planned Parenthood’s or NARAL’s Facebook pages, despite the significant covered it’s received in the blogosphere — and not to mention the fact it appeared in, you know, the New York Times.

They don’t want to touch it with a 10-foot pole.

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