Among the many risks of ART is a higher risk of birth defects or low birth weight and related problems, even among singletons, but particularly among the many higher-order multiples that tend to be conceived in these procedures. Some people, though undoubtedly scared, put faith in God and accept the children they have conceived, knowing their lives will be forever changed but accepting the responsibilities, joys and sorrows all together. But many couples opt for abortion of some of the multiples. They justify this by saying it will make for a safer pregnancy for them (likely true) and better odds for the remaining children (also possible, though not at all certain) - or they justify it simply by saying they could not afford/handle raising multiples. In this case, none was quite so divorced from human feeling as to undertake reduction just so they wouldn't have to start shopping at Costco (N.B., in that case the triplets pregnancy was natural) - but the logic of reduction is still cruel and chilling. First, the abortion doctor (Mark Evans, here) goes on what George Will, the father of a boy with Downs Syndrome, correctly terms a "search and destroy" mission for any babies who are slower to develop or who appear to have abnormalities indicating Downs or other conditions. If all of them look equally healthy, the doctor might make the call based on gender. Two boys, one girl? One of the boys will probably have to go. Ethicists all seem to agree that's an ethically sound form of sex selection, as opposed to sex selection done for the "wrong" reasons. Finally, if there's no other way to pick which baby to eliminate, it may come down to just an accident of placement in the womb -- closest to the needle, first to go. There's absolutely no mistake about what's going on here, since the first steps in the procedure involve detailed ultrasounds, and few of the patients have any illusions. Indeed (and again, going to how great this "choice" is), some are terrified, some are pressured, and some are horribly guilt-ridden (though not enough to stop the procedure).
[O]n Greenbaum's screen were three little honeycombed chambers with three fetuses growing in them. The fetuses were moving and waving their limbs; even at this point, approaching 12 weeks of gestation, they were clearly human, at that big-headed-could-be-an-alien-but-definitely-not-a-kitten stage of development. Evans has found this to be the best window of time in which to perform a reduction . . .
"They are all measuring at 11 weeks and 6 days," Greenbaum said.
"That's right," the woman said, wonderingly. "It is 12 weeks tomorrow."
So far, there was nothing anomalous about any of the fetuses. Greenbaum turned the screen toward the patient. "That's the little heartbeat," she said, pointing to the area where a tiny organ was clearly pulsing. "And there are the little hands. There's the head. The body."
"Oh, my God, I can really see it!" the patient cried. "Oh, my God! I can see the fingers!"
"Okay!" she said, abruptly, gesturing for the screen to be turned away. She began sobbing. There were no tissues in the room, so her husband gave her a paper towel, which she crumpled to her face. The patient spent the rest of the procedure with her hospital gown over her face, so she would not see any more of what was happening.
WHAT WAS HAPPENING WAS DAY ONE OF A TWO-DAY PROCESS, in which one of the woman's three fetuses would be eliminated through an injection of potassium chloride, which stops the fetal heart.
Greenbaum, the nurse, twists herself ethically to say she'd never work at an abortion clinic, but somehow this is fine. Yet: "It's a very hard procedure, because the baby is moving, and you are chasing it. That is what is very emotional -- when the baby is moving and you are chasing it." Hunting it down.
Mundy, to her credit, points out the contradictions inherent in ART patients praying for children and then deciding "God gave me too many." It is a form of playing God. I doubt articles like this will really make a dent in the number of people who nevertheless keep spending and trying for ART pregnancies and subsequently face multiples pregnancies, but again, anything that shines light on this darkness is ultimately serving the good.