Selective reduction is a term that refers to aborting one baby in multiple pregnancies. It is a practice mainly associated with higher order multiples (like sextuplets), conceived after IVF treatment. But women who are carrying twins also choose to abort one baby sometimes, reducing their pregnancy to a singleton gestation. The New York Times had a very fascinating article on this topic this week, entitled "The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy".
Selective reduction, and abortion in general, are such hard topics. The article gave fascinating insights into the reasons some women have for reducing their twin pregnancies to a singleton pregnancy. For instance, a women called "Jenny" in the article underwent IVF treatment to become pregnant again, while she and her husband already had children old enough to go to grade school. When she got pregnant with twins, she opted to abort one. Why? She said her main priority was to be the best mother she could, both to her older children and a new baby. She thought she couldn't handle twins, and had a selective reduction at 14 weeks.
There are no national statistics available on how often selective reductions happens with twins, but the Mount Sinai Medical Center from New York says that 15 percent of their reductions were to a singleton in 1997; a figure that has risen to 60 percent now. Some of these abortions may be due to medical reasons, but in other cases, it is financial stress or worries about being able to take care of twins that leads to the decision to abort one of two babies. The New York Times article even mentioned someone who had two healthy twins, a boy and a girl, and opted to undergo a selective reduction to avoid financial stress and protect her marriage. She chose to abort the boy because she already had a son.
Does that sound like we are, as humans, trying to first create life (by IVF) and then end it, at will? Is this "playing God"? (And should couples who don't want twins be having fertility treatments at all?) Or are these simply very hard decisions that some people make, knowing their limits and making sure they don't bite off more than they can chew? Whatever your opinion is, this is one controversial topic.